Stephen Clarkson,
Patriot's Reward
(Peter E. Randall, 2007)

This is historical fiction at its best. Author Stephen Clarkson writes in a style that brings the old dusty bones of history to life.

Based on historical fact -- much of it from his own family history -- the story in Patriot's Reward gives us a unique perspective on the great events of the early history of modern America. It also allows an insight into the minds of an often-forgotten component of that history. The slaves who would eventually prove the seed of so many American citizens come to life in this story. These forgotten and invisible people in past narratives are to the forefront in Clarkson's tale.

Those who viewed and enjoyed the television series John Adams would do well to read this book to find out the thoughts, dreams and aspirations of the "ordinary people" of that era. Opening with the arrival of a slave ship and explaining, without being pedantic or boring, the misgivings of the whites and the humiliation of the slaves, it sets the scene for a tale of how one man, renamed Will by his owners, set about improving his situation and growing to understand the new world he was cast into. His education and growing awareness parallels the disputes with Britain and the subsequent revolution.

The characters are for the main part very well drawn, to the extent that you feel angry when you read how even the more considerate whites are constrained in how well they may treat their slaves. The lack of triumph of love in Will's marriage marks this so far above romantic fiction where a solution would have miraculously appeared. The trial of Will's wife will make your blood boil at the prevalent injustice.

This book will educate you a period of America's history while giving hours of enjoyable reading. My minor quibbles would be with the title that perhaps gives away some of the story and the cover art.

review by
Nicky Rossiter

21 February 2009

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