The Poetry of Exclusion

Ron Hansen’s Exiles delicately displays the conjoining of the literary with the historical, biographical, philosophical, and even the theological. Once again Hansen’s imaginative range surprises and entertains. The author of such diverse novels as The Assassi­nation of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Mariette in Ecstasy, Atticus, Hitler’s Niece, Isn’t it Romantic?, and a collection of essays, A Stay Against Confusion, Hansen this time strikes a rich vein with the story of Gerard Manley Hopkins and his fascination with the story of the five young German nuns who died in the sinking of the Deutschland in December 1875. The novel is at once the story of Hopkins’ dazzling poem “The Wreck of the Deutschland,” a report of the historical circumstances that led to the tragedy at sea, a meditation on lives given over to the service of God, an inspired take on the days of agony as the foundered ship gave up 60 lives, and the story of Hopkins’ own life of sacrifice, regret, failure, and hope.

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Sojourners Magazine July 2008
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