The Furies (novel)
|Series||The Kent Family Chronicles|
|Preceded by||The Seekers|
|Followed by||The Titans|
The Furies is a historical novel written by John Jakes and originally published in 1976. It is book four in a series known as the Kent Family Chronicles or the American Bicentennial Series. The novel mixes fictional characters with historical events and figures, to tell the story of the United States of America from 1836 to 1852.
The story begins in March 1836, during the Battle of the Alamo, twenty-two years after the event depicted at the end of The Seekers, book three of the series. Amanda Kent, daughter of Gilbert Kent and Harriet Lebow, was among the women and children who survived the ensuing massacre.
After the massacre, she was taken before Santa Anna, who led the Mexican forces against the Texans, and he was willing to grant her clemency, an offer she declined, putting her life in danger. She was saved by Major Luis Cordoba, one of Santa Anna’s officers, who did not fully support him. Cordoba put Amanda to work as his servant and they eventually fell in love. She remained a camp follower with the Mexican army until April 21, when she witnessed the Battle of San Jacinto, during which Cordoba was killed. Amanda gave birth to his son in January 1837, and named him Louis in his honor.
After the Texas rebellion, Amanda left Texas and settled in San Francisco, which at the time was called Yerba Buena. There she founded a small, but profitable tavern. She fell in love with Barton McGill, a sea captain, who made regular trips from California to New York City, and through him she discovered that a publishing firm called Kent and Son still operated. The firm was once owned by her father, but had been lost in a game of cards by her stepfather to Hamilton Stovall. McGill told her that Stovall still owned it and from that moment on, Amanda became obsessed with buying it back from him. The California Gold Rush, in part, provided her the means. She also learnt through McGill that Walpole, one of Stovall's managers that her cousin believed to be dead, was in fact still alive.
When the Gold Rush began, Amanda expanded her tavern into a hotel and because so many came seeking gold, the establishment made her a great deal of money. Jared Kent, Amanda’s cousin, was one of many men who came to California in search of gold. With two partners he found a profitable gold claim involving a mine called the Ophir. Amanda had not seen her cousin in thirty-four years, but they were unexpectedly reunited for a brief time during Christmas, 1849.
During the short-lived reunion, Jared gives a brief account of his life since 1814 - i.e. after the end of the Seekers - and reveals that he now has a son, Jephtha, and three grandsons (plus a granddaughter, Annabelle, who died in infancy). Jared would have preferred his son to stay with him in the west, but Jephtha moved to Lexington, Virginia and became a Methodist minister. He also discusses his gold-mining venture. Jared was enraged to learn from Amanda that Jared had not killed Walpole before fleeing Boston in 1813, which is what he had believed until then.
But men who were opposed to American immigrants attempted to kill her in retaliation for the death of one of their kind, a bigotted bartender called Felker, that had occurred earlier. The incident had bought the two cousins together. The killers fired into Amanda's home and mortally injure Jared. In his dying moments, after being shot, he reveals the name of Gilbert Kent's attorney, William Benbow, to Amanda.
Amanda replaced Jared as the third partner to his gold claim and with that financial backing, she returned to Boston to reclaim the Kent and Son publishing firm. After meeting Benbow and then banker Joshua Rothman, she discovered that, unbeknownst to her mother, her father had invested in a textile company late in his life. This investment made her a millionaire and, with this money, she attempted to buy Kent and Son. Amanda used her married name, de la Gura, because of Stovall’s rivalry with the Kent family, but when she incautiously made it known that she wanted to publish more liberal leaning literature Stovall rescinded the offer. This did not deter her from her goal. She proceeded to buy stocks in Kent and Son in an attempt to become the majority shareholder.
Though he lived in a southern state, Jephtha became morally opposed to slavery and he became a conductor on the Underground Railroad. In 1852, he mailed a female slave belonging to his father-in-law, Virgil Tunworth, in a wooden box to Amanda in New York City, where she was now living, and she inadvertently also became a conductor. While she was opposed to the Fugitive Slave Act, she had previously believed it should be obeyed simply because it was the law of the land, but she aided her cousin. When Jephtha’s father-in-law came to Amanda’s house in search of his slave, Amanda kept her hidden. Then, after he left, she sneaked the runaway out of her house disguised as another woman, who was visiting Amanda.
This event was published in the newspapers and it inadvertently revealed Amanda as Jephtha’s cousin. When Stovall read the article, he blocked Amanda from ever gaining a majority of the stocks in Kent and Son. He then called on her and said that he intended to ruin her life and the life of her son, and to take legal action that would prevent Amanda from ever buying Kent and Son. During their conversation, an Irish gang attacked Amanda’s home (in retaliation for Louis' raping an Irish maid in Amanda's employ, and Amanda's subsequent sacking of the maid). As Stovall fled, he knocked Louis unconscious with his cane. Thinking that her son had been killed, Amanda shot Stovall dead. However, in that same raid, one of the gang members shot Amanda and mortally wounded her. She lived seventeen days afterwards, long enough to discover that Stovall’s heirs were willing to sell Kent and Son to the Kent family, and to arrange to have the purchase made.
Historic figures the fictional Amanda Kent interacts with throughout the novel
- Jim Bowie
- Davy Crockett
- Susanna Dickinson
- Angelina Dickinson
- Ramon Musquiz
- Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna
- Sam Houston
- Samuel Brannan
- William T. Sherman - He apprehends an Army deserter who had stopped in Amanda's tavern. Sherman had been an Army lieutenant at the time.
- Frederick Douglass
- Horace Greeley
- Fernando Wood - future New York mayor. Still a local Democratic politician at the time Amanda briefly sees him.
- John Sutter - He sold some beef to Amanda when she was in the Goldfields.
- Isaiah Rynders - Controversial 1840s/1850s political identity, who was believed connected to the mob that attacked Amanda Kent's house.
Historic figures the fictional Rev Jephtha Kent interacts with, or refers to, throughout the novel
Jephtha's presence is largely confined to two diary extracts that appear in the book. He mentions several historical figures, often encountered, in them.
- Jason Lee (missionary)
- James Osgood Andrew
- Orange Scott
- James Harper (publisher)
- Pastor William S.White - He comes to Jephtha's aid in 1850 when Jephtha is evicted from his own home in Lexington for his antislavery views.
- James K. Polk - Polk's nomination as Presidential candidate is referred to in his writings
- Zachary Taylor - Taylor's death in 1850 is referred to in his writings.
- Henry Clay
- William H. Seward - Jephtha wrote that Captain Tunworth thought poorly of Seward, at that time a New York Senator, because of how the Constitution was being interpreted by Seward.
- John C. Calhoun
- "New York Times Best Seller List". The Miami News. 13 March 1976. Retrieved 4 July 2013.
- L. H. Whittemore (19 June 1977). "Meet John Jakes: Instant Historian and Millionaire". Youngstown Vindicator. Retrieved 4 July 2013.
- Snapp,B; A Review of (Stonewall Jackson’s Pastor) Rev. William S. White, D.D. and His Times: An Autobiography, Chalcedon website