Book Reviews of The Dante Club

The Dante Club
The Dante Club
Author: Matthew Pearl
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ISBN-13: 9780812971040
ISBN-10: 0812971043
Publication Date: 2/10/2004
Pages: 400
Rating:
  • Currently 3.2/5 Stars.
 366

3.2 stars, based on 366 ratings
Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks
Book Type: Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

67 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed The Dante Club on + 9 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 12
Story about a murderer who kills people with methods described by Dante. The book is set in the 1860's, and focuses around a group of poets. The writing style is "old" and period appropriate. I enjoyed this, but the writing style made for a somewhat difficult read. None of the characters are particularly moving or endearing. They don't seem to have a lot of depth, either.
reviewed The Dante Club on + 5 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 11
HATED IT. I only finished it because my bookclub was discussing it. It is written in a period appropriate vernacular and very difficult to get through. The murder scenes are incredibly grisly, not for the squeamish at all. I just found the tone condescending and was somewhat taken aback that the author thought he could perceive the thoughts and actions of such iconic historical/literary figures like Longfellow. The one good thing - it has inspired me to read Dante and it was nice to have it under my belt when I read Jodi Picoult's The Tenth Circle (which I did enjoy).
reviewed The Dante Club on + 161 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 8
Set in Boston of 1865. Longfellow and several of his poet-friends (Lowell, Holmes) are translating Dante's "Divine Comedy" (against resistance from Harvard functionaries). A series of murders happens, which are basically reenactments of some of Dante's punishments in hell. The "Dante Club" helps the first mulatto police officer in Boston to find the murderer.

Even though this book is very well-written (old style), I had a hard time "getting into it". On the one hand, the book is filled with details - you learn a lot about post-civil-war Boston, on the other hand, it feels as if it is an account by an impartial observer. The characters show no emotions, sometimes it is hard to figure out who is speaking or why someone acts a certain way.

I liked the story idea, and the writing is excellent, but the characters are too flat.
reviewed The Dante Club on + 1079 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 6
The first 10 pages of this book were so graphic that I nearly stopped reading. But I kept going, to be rewarded with a finely crafted mystery centering around the Fireside Poets and Longfellow's translation of Dante's Inferno. Set in Boston at the very end of the Civil War, Pearl weaves political and literary events into a credible story that was hard to put down. I especially enjoyed his portrayals of Holmes, Lowell, and Longfellow. My only complaint is that in trying to give the book an authentic tone, he relied too much on the nearly incomprehensible slang of the era.
reviewed The Dante Club on + 21 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 6
In 1865 Boston, not many people spoke Italian. It was much more popular for people to study Latin and Greek; the classic works in these languages were common reading for students and academics. But the small circle of literati in Pearl's inventive novel is bent on translating and publishing Dante's Divine Comedy so that all Americans may learn of the writer's genius. As this group of scholars, poets, publishers and professors readies the manuscript, much more exciting doings are happening outside their circle. The Boston police are hot on the trail of a series of murders taking place around town. In one, a priest is buried alive, his feet set on fire; in another, a man's body is eaten by maggots. It doesn't take a rocket scientist-only a Dante expert-to realize these murders are based on Dante's Inferno and its account of Hell's punishments. Scholars become snoopers, and the Dante Club is soon on the scene, investigating the crimes and trying to find the killer. A tad unlikely, but it makes for a terrific story. Gaines gives an stirring performance, nimbly portraying some of the "Hah-vad" professors' "Bah-ston" accents and impressively reading the Italian passages from Dante's work. Although it's sometimes hard to differentiate between the various characters-after awhile each stuffy Bostonian begins to sound alike-Gaines nonetheless amuses and, via Pearl's historical references, educates.
reviewed The Dante Club on + 53 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
Not a thriller. Very slow paced. Writing is good but I got bored. Also, for those who are squeamish like me, the descriptions of the dead bodies and the murders are particularly gruesome. (In one case, we hear a man's thoughts as maggots eat away his brains.) I like murder mysteries and they don't usually gross me out. However, I got nauseous reading this book.
reviewed The Dante Club on + 19 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
Very disappointing. I tried starting this book several times to no avail. While it starts out promising, the writing is just too pompous and overblown. If you want a good historial thriller, read Caleb Carr's, The Alienist.
reviewed The Dante Club on + 23 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
This novel is set in Boston in the nineteenth century. The novel focuses on a set of famous literary writers who are trying to solve grisly murders. The novel is a fast read and a great historical fiction!
reviewed The Dante Club on + 3 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
This is one of the best books I have ever read! Though it is a bit gruesome in some parts, it is definetly worth the read. It centers around Longfellow's translation of Dante's Inferno and various murders that are happening in Boston, post Civil War. Definetly worth your time!
reviewed The Dante Club on
Helpful Score: 3
The book didn't grab me like the I thought it would.
reviewed The Dante Club on
Helpful Score: 3
Excellent mystery set in 1860s Boston. A group of scholars want to translate and publish Dante's "Divine Comedy" so all Americans can enjoy his work. But a series of murders takes place around the city, based on the fate of some of Dante's characters.
reviewed The Dante Club on + 109 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
It is 1865 and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow works on finishing his translation of Dante Alleghieri's Divine Comedy with the help of four of his friends, some of New Endland's brightest literary stars, when Boston becomes the scene of the most gruesome murders they've ever heard of. The police are baffled and only the members of the Dante Club know that the killer has taken a few pages out of the Divine Comedy itself and it is up to them to stop him.

"John Kurtz, the chief of the Boston police, breathed in some of his heft for a better fit between the two chambermaids." This is the first sentence of this book and it gives us a glimpse into the style of Matthew Pearl's writing. It's clever and witty but not simplistic and at a time when majority of books are written in such a conversational language it's a pleasant change of pace. It also fits the period and serves to create the atmosphere of the formality common in the higher levels of the 19th century society even in familiar company. And what a company it is! Longfellow, Holmes and Lowell were the rock stars of their time and yet Pearl paints such intimate and vivid portraits of them that by the time I turned the last page I felt like I knew them and their doting families. Of course this wasn't accidental - the author perused the poets' personal archives as part of his research for the novel. It still is delightful to see historical figures come to life the way they do here.
With amateurs acting as investigators it would be easy to categorize the book as a cozy mystery but I would say it falls somewhere between that and a hold-on-to-your-seat thriller, thanks to the fast pace and the gruesomeness of the murders, which are described in rather graphic detail. Of course this is 19th century poets being detectives so they were more horrified than majority of us readers would be, what with TV being what it is nowadays.
I appreciated that Mr. Pearl included some information on the plot and characters of Inferno as part of the story - I haven't read Dante yet and this saved me from having to put down the book to look things up online or wonder whether I've possibly missed something. It may seem a bit odd that Longfellow would need to explain what happened in the poem and why to his colleagues, all Dante efficionados, but it kept me reading so I'm not complaining.
What also kept me reading is the elusiveness of the killer's identity. I like to guess who the culprit is as more clues are revealed and here there were plenty of candidates yet the real murder managed to hide in plain sight until the very end. Bonus points to Mr. Pearl for keeping up the suspense.
This books is not just about Dante and murder though, it is also about the effects of war. The events take place after the Civil War and the effect it has on the American people as a whole and the separate individuals is very similar to what is happening in our country now with the veterans of the war in the Middle East coming home scarred for life, them and their families dealing with the consequences of their experiences every day. The gravity of this subject creates a stark contrast with the rest of the story. Granted, there are the horrors of the murders but the fact that it goes much deeper than the effects of literature on an unstable mind I think is as much a startling revelation for Holmes and the rest as it was for me, the reader. It helps demonstrate just how little their daily lives as litterateurs prepared them for the realities of life outside of their gloved circle, the realities of hunting a killer.
I would recommend this book to fans of historical fiction who appreciate a suspenseful mystery, intelligent storytelling, compelling characters and a villain you can't believe you missed.

Read my other reviews at bibliophilescorner.blogspot.com
reviewed The Dante Club on + 3 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
I liked this book more than The Poe Shadow, because the characters were more three-dimensional and likable, but it really was almost too gruesome to bear. It was an act of will to keep reading at more than one point, and I wasn't sure the gruesomeness was justified well enough by the ending.

However, it was a very good synthesis of actual events and people, including the accurate portrayal of one actual sensational crime that occurred in 1850s Boston and whose outcome in the courts resulted in a sharp change in legal precedent, plus several fictional ones. If you can take the gore, it's actually a very good book.
reviewed The Dante Club on + 6 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
A good read for lovers of historical fiction. A somewhat meaty novel requiring a bit of attention.
reviewed The Dante Club on + 12 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
The Dante Club is a carefully plotted, imaginatively shaped, and stylistically credible whodunit of unusual class and intellect...the writing is passionate, the narrative driven.
The Boston Globe
reviewed The Dante Club on + 8 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
If you're a sucker for historical mysteries like me you'll like this one. I can't wait to read Pearl's latest novel.
reviewed The Dante Club on + 6 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I really enjoyed how this book played out. At first I thought I was going to be bored, but I could just not put it down. very well written book I think is a must read.
reviewed The Dante Club on + 49 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
A suspenseful plot engaging historical figures in a mystery
reviewed The Dante Club on + 328 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This mystery takes place in Boston, just after the end of the Civil War. There is a murderer loose and the violent and sadistic murders are reminescent of Dante's punishments in the DIVINE COMEDY.
This suspenseful plot starts out slowly, but once you get hooked, you can't put it down!
reviewed The Dante Club on + 71 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I did not get into the book the first time I opened it, but the next try had me reading until around 2 a.m. to get to the end. Fascinating
reviewed The Dante Club on
Helpful Score: 1
This book is a well-written, suspenseful, and enjoyable account of a fictitious set of murders that takes place in 1865 following the Civil War and prior to the release of H.W. Longfellow's translation of The Divine Comedy. Pearl's characterization of well-known literary figures is insightful and personal, and never sentimental or corny. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a great story regardless of their familiarity with Dante's work.
reviewed The Dante Club on + 774 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
'The Dante Club' - novel, or plot to get people to read Dante's Inferno? Well, both! And quite effective as both, apparently!
I was a bit loath to read this book, because it sounded a little too similar to Arturo Perez-Reverte's 'The Club Dumas'. I can't say that the one does not owe a debt to the other, but I did very much enjoy this book, which is a well-researched, well-written historical mystery of the sort that leaves the reader wanting to do more research to find out more about the characters, the time period and the books mentioned - always a good thing! The plot concerns a group of poets - including the historical figures of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., and James Russell Lowell, who are devoted to, against university bureaucracy, translating Dante and bringing his works to an American audience for the first time. But, when some vicious and bizarre murders of highly-placed society figures occur in Boston, they are the only ones who notice that the men have been killed in ways which correspond to the tortures of hell described in the Inferno. Can they bring this information to the police without throwing suspicion upon themselves and their work? Or can they solve the crimes themselves?
reviewed The Dante Club on + 27 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
A bit stiff but interesting from a literary standpoint as real life historical figures are mixed with mystery, forensics and suspense.
reviewed The Dante Club on + 30 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
An excellent literary mystery; probably most interesting if you have an interest in either Dante or the Transcendentalists.
reviewed The Dante Club on + 14 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This is the abridged copy. Six hours on 4 tapes.
reviewed The Dante Club on + 15 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This is one of my favorite books. It's the perfect blend of historical novel and mystery.
reviewed The Dante Club on + 12 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I absolutely LOVED this book. Pearl combines all the intrigue of a current murder mystery with the prose of classic works. The storyline is brilliant, and I enjoyed going back through the book to notice how even the smallest details came together for the conclusion. Highly recommended.
reviewed The Dante Club on + 75 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Good mystery book, but hard to get through at times.
reviewed The Dante Club on + 4 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
If you want to evaluate this book, then I recommend the print version, not this audio recording. I just didn't like the reader. For some reason he felt compelled to give every character an exaggerated accent, and made them all sound insufferably pompous as well. Also, he pronounces "forehead" so that it rhymes exactly with "horrid." I hope he doesn't go around talking that way in real life.

The story itself is somewhat interesting, but again, my judgment of it was clouded by my irritation at the narrator, so I can't be objective on this point.

In fairness, though, his voice is extremely well-suited to reading Dante's actual poetry, and you get to hear the opening canto of The Inferno at the end, which is nice.
reviewed The Dante Club on + 6 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Another book group favorite. I liked it for the literary references and the New England locales.
reviewed The Dante Club on + 26 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Good but takes itself too seriously. Not the lightest of reads.
reviewed The Dante Club on + 14 more book reviews
Whodunit of unusual class and intellect
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Good plot. Interesting use of real individuals.
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Murder mystery with Dante's Inferno as the framework for the plot.
reviewed The Dante Club on + 18 more book reviews
erudite and clever historical mystery
reviewed The Dante Club on + 9 more book reviews
Mystery set around the American translation of Dante's Inferno to English. Great historical perspective
reviewed The Dante Club on + 13 more book reviews
Well-reviewed murder with a literary flair. As the cover blurb says: "Boston, 1865. A series of murders, all of them inspired by scenes in Dante's INFERNO. . . "
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Intriguing reading
reviewed The Dante Club on + 88 more book reviews
The historical characters are not as engaging as one would like. The mystery itself is interesting.
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The book is about a series of murders that were inspired by scenes from Dante's "Inferno". Received excellent reviews from People, The Wall Street Journal and The Boston Globe.
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Carefully plotted, it's a whodunit with intellect. Recommended!
reviewed The Dante Club on + 32 more book reviews
Great read! Very detailed historical mystery!
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Clever idea, kept my interest throughout. Accurate historical fiction.
reviewed The Dante Club on + 8 more book reviews
I love these type of books. I have read The Alienist, Angel of Darkness and Pearl's Ooes's Shadow which was really good, however I only read a chapter or 2, and just could not take those maggots. Gave it to my friend who said it was good, once you get past that part. This era of history, I find very intriguing.
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Read this because I liked The Last Dickens by Pearl but this wasn't as good but then I am more of a Dickens fan than of Dante. This was pretty gruesome but still a good mystery.
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This is an incredible book that hooks you & won't let go til the end. In 1865 Boston poets & Harvard professors Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes & James R. Lowell are working together to find a serial killer. They are also concluding a translation of Dante's The Divine Comedy but powers that be feel that it will prove corrupting to the American reading public. Dr. Holmes & Nicholas Rey, the first black member of the Boston police dept place their careers on the ine in their efforts to end the killing spree - it is of course a blend a fact & fiction but mesmerizing.
reviewed The Dante Club on + 6 more book reviews
Very interesting historical novel which made famous authors seem more real to me. I felt the previous rating wasn't accurate. I liked it a lot.
reviewed The Dante Club on
Excellent read! Descriptive narrative with erudite literary references. A fine balance between literature and mystery.
reviewed The Dante Club on + 4 more book reviews
Interesting mystery set in academic backdrop. You don't need to know much about Dante to find it intriguing.The pace of the book is a little slow at first, but the author mixes historical facts with literary license to create a very smart novel.
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I was given this book by a friend to read, as I like historical fiction, but really did not find it to my taste...but others might enjoy historical mystery.
reviewed The Dante Club on + 3 more book reviews
A Very slow read, I couldnt get into it at all.
reviewed The Dante Club on + 10 more book reviews
A highly recommended book that I absolutely hated. A struggle to finish.
reviewed The Dante Club on + 5 more book reviews
Fantastic! Boston, 1865. A very realistic thriller involving the celebrities of the literary world in 19th century Boston: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell, and J.T. Fields. Extremely well-written, the Dante Club is the best fiction i've read in a very long time.
reviewed The Dante Club on + 97 more book reviews
Boston, 1865. A series of murders, all of them inspired by scenes in Dantes Inferno. Only an elite group of Americas first Dante scholars--- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell, and J.T. Fields--- can solve the mystery. With the police baffled, more lives endangered, and Dantes literary future at stake, the Dante Club must shed its sheltered literary existence and find the killer.
reviewed The Dante Club on
A lovely read. It drew me right into the time and place with rich descriptions and settings. The author's choice of words suits the time the story is set in perfectly. As for the story itself, there are red herrings aplenty and the eventual solution to the mystery is very satisfying.
reviewed The Dante Club on + 18 more book reviews
A very engaging and exciting read.
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Club Dumas set in the world of the Boston Brahmin poets. A good murder-mystery-historical fiction that leaves you less concerned with "who done it" and more concerned with whether you should pick up Dante or Longfellow for your next read.
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I ended up really enjoying this book. It started off sort of slow but by the time I was halfway through it I didn't want to put it down. And I didn't figure out who the killer was--always a sign of a good book.
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Historical thriller that is definitely worth reading - some good plot twists and great characters.
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series of murders based on Dante's Inferno occur in Boston in 1865...an elite group of Dante scholars attempt to solve the crimes...some descriptions of the bodies are very detailed, but adds to the overall feeling of credibility of the novel...an interesting read.

"...beguiling look at the United States in an era when elites shaped the course of learning and publishing. With this story of the Dente Club's own descent into hell, Mr. Pearl's book will delight the Dante novice and expert alike." -The Wall Street Journal (taken from back cover)
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Good mystery -
reviewed The Dante Club on + 49 more book reviews
Great mystery and a bit of history at the same time.
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A good read in the tradition of Caleb Karr with excellent historical references to a Boston no longer in existence.
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Never read it.
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"The Dante Clube is a carefully plotted, imaginatively shaped, and stylistically credible whodunit of unusual class and intellect...the writing is passionate, the narrative driven." - The Boston Globe
reviewed The Dante Club on + 46 more book reviews
A "pearl", Pearl! As usual a convulted approach but interesting and thought provoking.
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I dunno, I tried for a long time to wash the bloodstains off the front cover, but they just wouldn't come off.