The Sot-Weed Factor by John Barth

Published: 1960

Genre: fiction

Length: 756 pages

Setting: London and Maryland, 1700s

Interest: It’s a Time Top 100 book.

Summary: Ebenezer Cooke is a poet in London, wandering his way through life until an incidence with the resident whore, Joan Toast. Cooke’s father is incensed (even though nothing happened) and send him to Malden, his tobacco plantation in Maryland. Along the way to Malden, there are many cases of mistaken identity, pirates, and reuniting long-lost families.

Final thoughts: A very long, dense book. It wasn’t a bad book, so I never wanted to give up on it, but I did need to read a couple other books in the middle of this one. My take home message was how fluid identity was back in the 1700s. One of the main characters, Henry Burlingham, pretended to be someone new every time he showed up. Even Ebenezer Cooke couldn’t prove he was the real Ebenezer Cooke since several other people were impersonating him.

Title comes from: The poem Ebenezer wrote about Maryland was called “The Sot-Weed Factor.” Sot-weed refers to tobacco and a factor was someone who ran the plantation.

Reading challenges fulfilled: None, since this is a review of a book read in a previous year.

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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