Thank-you to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for my advanced reading copy of this novel. For a synopsis of this novel please click here.
This novel tells the story of the fictional Boylston family from Cambridge, Massachusetts, during the Revolutionary War. It is predominantly a coming-of-age story for the female protagonist Eliza Boylston and her story touches upon the theme of freedom and how fickle it’s meaning can be.
Whilst Eliza’s brother, Jeb, fights for the rebel cause and speaks of freedom for his countrymen Eliza looks closer to home and begins to question the hypocrisy that slavery is rampant in her community. Eliza becomes close to her parent’s slave, Cassie, and the reader is witness to the gradual shedding of mental prejudice that must take place before their friendship can be truly pure. It takes Eliza the majority of the novel to cast off the beliefs instilled in her since childhood. This is miles beyond what any other character in the novel seems capable of. Although many are portrayed as being sympathetic to the plight of slaves, they do not feel it is as important to fight for them as it is to fight for their own sense of the freedom that is to be gained from breaking with British rule. Eliza feels the exact opposite; although sympathetic to the rebel cause it is the everyday injustice of slavery that causes her to take a stand.
I really liked Eliza and everything her character began to stand for and therefore I greatly enjoyed her story. I appreciate that the author made her a product of her time and not so modern that she becomes disjointed from the time period. Eliza comes to the conclusion that the fight for freedom should include all people due to her own life experiences and not because she was “ahead” of her time. As a Christian people the injustice of slavery should already have been present in the mindset of society, however humans so often turn a blind eye and never think to question something that they take as part of the norm. All Eliza did was begin to question. In many ways it was the actions of Cassie that brought home the truth to Eliza. Cassie embodies all of the qualities that a Christian is supposed to possess. She is patient, kind and compassionate and I admired her character greatly. I wonder if Eliza would have as quickly come to the same conclusions if Cassie had not been such an inspiration.
Although this novel has a romantic storyline also, I feel as though it was the relationship between Eliza and Cassie that held the most weight. Eliza falls in love with her uncle’s slave and similar mental prejudice must be overcome for their relationship to succeed, however it was never as poignantly described as it was with Cassie. I enjoyed the addition of a love story to the novel but I would not say that it was the main theme. In my opinion this novel falls firmly in the historical fiction category, not in the subgenre of historical romance.
An aspect of the novel I really appreciated was how much Eliza moved around the New England area. By moving from Cambridge to Portsmouth to Braintree it allowed me to gain a wider perspective of life at the time of the Revolution. I also liked that John and Abigail Adams became part of the story once Eliza moved to Braintree as they brought a sense of authenticity to the novel. I plan on going back and reading “The Midwife’s Revolt”, Jodi Daynard’s first novel and a companion novel to this one. From what I gather John and Abigail Adams are much more central characters in The Midwife’s Revolt.
Overall I found this to be an interesting read with some very thought-provoking themes. I would recommend giving it a read, regardless of whether you are familiar with the time period or not.