Since Cheryl Pearl Sucher married a New Zealander in 1999, she has been living between two worlds: the Greater New York City area and the Hawkes Bay of New Zealand, two places that are about as far apart on the planet as one can travel. Though she has often felt torn between her very different lives, she has also felt that her life experience and artistic vision has been enhanced by living as both an insider and an outsider in such different but extraordinary places. This interview series is born out her experience between these worlds, and as a published fiction writer, bookseller, journalist, memoirist and avocational musical traveler.
In this edition, Cheryl sits down to talk with Roxana Robinson about her new novel Dawson's Fall.
In Dawson’s Fall, a novel based on the lives of Roxana Robinson’s great-grandparents, we see America at its most fragile, fraught, and malleable. Set in 1889, in Charleston, South Carolina, Robinson’s tale weaves her family’s journal entries and letters with a novelist’s narrative grace, and spans the life of her tragic hero, Frank Dawson, as he attempts to navigate the country’s new political, social, and moral landscape.
Dawson, a man of fierce opinions, came to this country as a young Englishman to fight for the Confederacy in a war he understood as a conflict over states’ rights. He later became the editor of the Charleston News and Courier, finding a platform of real influence in the editorial column and emerging as a voice of the New South. With his wife and two children, he tried to lead a life that adhered to his staunch principles: equal rights, rule of law, and nonviolence, unswayed by the caprices of popular opinion. But he couldn’t control the political whims of his readers. As he wrangled diligently in his columns with questions of citizenship, equality, justice, and slavery, his newspaper rapidly lost readership, and he was plagued by financial worries. Nor could Dawson control the whims of the heart: his Swiss governess became embroiled in a tense affair with a drunkard doctor, which threatened to stain his family’s reputation. In the end, Dawson—a man in many ways representative of the country at this time—was felled by the very violence he vehemently opposed.
Roxana Robinson is the author of ten books, including Dawson’s Fall. Her books have won the Maine MWPA Fiction Award and the James Webb Fiction Award, and she was a finalist for the Dublin Impac Award. Four of her books were New York Times Notables. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper’s, The New York Times and elsewhere. She has received fellowships from the NEA and the Guggenheim Foundation. She is a former president of the Authors Guild, and teaches at Hunter College.
Cheryl Pearl Sucher is an award-winning journalist, essayist, reviewer and fiction writer who lives between Cranbury, New Jersey and the Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. Ka Hua E Wha: The Southernmost Jewish Community in the World, her contribution to Jewish Lives in New Zealand was published in 2012 by Random House NZ and she has been a frequent contributing book reviewer and feature writer for The NZ Sunday Star-Times and The NZ Listener. Her first novel, The Rescue of Memory, was published by Scribner so long ago she has forgotten the exact date and an excerpt from her second novel in progress, Lost Cities, was published in 2013 in Printer's Row, the Chicago Tribune's literary supplement. From July 2013 to April 2016 she was one of four presenter/interviewers for New Zealand Hawkes Bay Television's half hour interview program CHATROOM.