Prior to reading The Dante Club, I had read Matthew Pearl’s The Technologists and because I’d read that book and loved it so much that, I decided to go Pearl’s beginnings and read The Dante Club. As The Dante Club included so many of the poets I’d studied in my Lit classes, it was a refreshing jaunt through history. With Longfellow, Holmes, and Lowell, I attempted to uncover the plot of a murderous fiend, who killed in the name of Dante.
It was interesting to see how much of these poets rich histories Pearl included in his novel. It wasn’t just a murder mystery to be solved, it was an education into our past. With the Dante Club, we got a peek into the different personalities of these writers, and what they may have been like. Of course, since it’s historical fiction, we cannot presume that was how they might have really felt, but it was nice to see these figures as real people and not just names in a history book. It was interesting to see the passionate Lowell, and the demure Holmes with differing opinions on how things should be handled.
These men who were compatriots, and friends, at times had many disagreements, and the characters’ various traits is what makes Pearl’s characters so relatable. They didn’t just solve a murder, but they also delved into the complexities of their relationships. Holmes and Lowell were at such odds, that it was sweet to see them when they worked together. Although maybe I’m just a sucker for a love/hate friendship.
Though the novel is a typical murder-mystery, it was also a statement on the casualties of war, even after the battles have long ended, seeing the murderer was a suffering Civil War vet. Despite the gruesome methods in which the murders were committed, one could not help but feel sorry for the poor vet, who did not know how to survive post war. In a time where we are seeing more and more veterans unable to cope with life post-combat, this sentiment rang painfully clear, and stays fresh in one’s mind.