Robinson…has discovered a story with as much to do with America’s present as America’s past.”
– Bethanne Patrick, Washington Post

Dawson’s Fall

Sarah Crichton Books
May 14, 2019
A cinematic Reconstruction-era drama of violence and fraught moral reckoning.

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.

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Praise for Dawson’s Fall

Robinson conjures an era when the South was a hair-trigger place, obsessed with lost privilege.”
The New Yorker
Some set pieces, such as the Hamburg riot, are riveting, showing how a novelist can capture reality in a way that rouses a historian’s envy.”
– Harlan Greene, The Post and Courier
Robinson uses lynchings, duels, and sexual assaults to shed light on populism and toxic masculinity…A stylish and contemplative…novel, considerate of facts but not burdened by them.”
Kirkus, Starred Review