(Janet Miriam) Taylor (Holland) Caldwell

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Harold Strauss

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Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 468

["The Eagles Gather"] continues the saga of the Bouchard family, the great armaments clan whose fortunes were first set forth in "Dynasty of Death." The Bouchards are ruthless, self-willed men, and their women are pawns of their overweening lust for power. One recalls how, in the earlier novel, the Bouchards together with the Barbours founded a small powder and arms factory in Pennsylvania in the middle of the last century. One recalls how they gradually outstripped and exterminated their competitors, how they created a gigantic munitions monopoly with interests extending into affiliated industries, and how these merchants of death learned to manipulate public opinion and to provoke wars when business was dull….

Tradition is a powerful motor force in human behavior. When we first met the Bouchards they seemed shocking and unreal. It was difficult to accustom oneself to the irresponsible violence and unmotivated hatreds with which "Dynasty of Death" was peppered. But now violence and treachery have come to have the force of tradition in the Bouchard family, and one accepts their monstrous behavior with more credence. By that measure "The Eagles Gather" … emerges as a much stronger book than its predecessor. We might also add that its narrative has much more unity, and its drama is much more concentrated. "Dynasty of Death" spread out from 1837 to 1910, and its texture, for all its 400,000 words, seemed a little thin. The new novel lavishes a quarter of a million words on the period from 1917 to 1929. There is a difference in pace that produces a marked improvement in effectiveness….

No review can suggest all the ramifications of the plot. The net of intrigue spreads into Wall Street and into the capitals of Europe and South America. To Taylor Caldwell the Bouchards are the font of all the evil in the world, the fomenters of war, the financiers of fascism, the catalysts of depressions, the oppressors of labor and the masters of public opinion in all lands. As primitive tribes place all unaccountable natural phenomena upon the doorstep of an anthropomorphic god, so Taylor Caldwell traces all perilous social phenomena to the Bouchards. She is unable to go beyond the Bouchards, to see what makes them behave as they do. But throughout history mankind has been expert at passing the buck to the devil, so that perhaps we must allow Taylor Caldwell her political naïveté. It is a little more difficult to overlook her careless writing, which admits not only stylistic blunders but also factual inconsistencies…. Nevertheless, in spite of these deficiencies. "The Eagles Gather" is an undeniably powerful novel. The pace is swift, and dramatic scene follows upon dramatic scene.

Harold Strauss, "'The Eagles Gather' and Other New Works of Fiction," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1939 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), December 31, 1939, p. 7.

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