Thank-you to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for my advanced reading copy of this novel. For a full synopsis of this novel provided by Goodreads please click here.
This was an interesting novel set in the context of the American Revolutionary War. Whilst this is not the focal point of the novel it does provide the backdrop to the protagonist’s, Anna’s, story.
Anna was a well-written and developed character. Daughter of a tenant farmer on a Dutch settlement along the Hudson River, she hides behind the façade that she has created for herself: that of an English-speaking finishing-school teacher in New York. She is careful to conceal the fact that she used to be Dutch-speaking Annatje and we believe her to be a fugitive in hiding. As the story progresses we slowly find out more about Anna’s past and how it is that she came to be the well-established headmistress of Winter’s Academy.
Unfortunately I became disappointed with the novel about three-quarters of the way through. After the set up was so brilliant and the intrigue surrounding Anna’s past so heightened, the last quarter of the story was incredibly rushed and therefore the climax was lost. All of the answers were just given, the mystery solved, and I felt let down by such a hasty conclusion.
Nonetheless, the story went a long way to making me realize just how complex the Revolutionary War was. The paradox of the wealthy, land-owning patroons supporting the rebels and the disgruntled and poor tenant farmers supporting the British shows that the war was not as black and white as it is often portrayed as being. When the layers of political agendas and varied grievances are piled upon each other only then does the majestic sense of the war start to become clear. There were multiple factors at play, not all of them as pure or simple as one might expect (especially me, British-born and lacking in education about the subject).
Another intriguing aspect of the novel was the exploration of the American-Dutch culture. It is astonishing to me how the culture managed to be preserved even after the British gained the territory from the Dutch in 1664. The patroon system was similar to the feudal system in Europe hundreds of years before that. I had no idea that such a system was ever in place on US territory and it has sparked my interest in the subject–I will absolutely be reading more about it.
Overall I am glad to have read this novel and gained the insight that I have into the patroonships and the American-Dutch involvement in the Revolutionary War. I just wish that the novel had ended with the same promise that I showed throughout the main body of it’s chapters. With a more involved conclusion this novel could have been truly superb.