Monday, October 9, 2017

Oliver Wiswell

Kenneth Roberts (1885-1957) wrote historical fiction and was very good at it. Wikipedia notes that "Roberts' historical fiction often focused on rehabilitating unpopular persons and causes in American history," among which was Benedict Arnold. I long ago read Roberts' Northwest Passage (1937), set during the French and Indian War, and his Oliver Wiswell (1940), a book that tells the story of the War for Independence from a Loyalist point of view. From a Kirkus review of Oliver Wiswell when it was first published:
...[H]ere is the first, so far as I know, full-bodied story of the American Revolution from the side of the Loyalists. .... [H]ere we see the story of a Civil War, when we have accustomed ourselves to think of the Colonies as putting up virtually a united front to England. We see in many parts of the country, a majority of the people, and everywhere a majority of the upper classes and the intelligentsia of their day, determined on finding a way out without bloodshed, and paying the price in being made victims of lawless mobs, incendiaries, pillagers, sadists of the worst type, thrust from their homes, tarred and feathered, tortured and often killed — all because they demanded their right to independence of belief in the face of a new kind of tyranny. Oliver Wiswell was a Yale undergraduate, who came home on the eve of his father's victimization — and who tells his story. .... This is no paean of praise for either side. He is extraordinarily objective, standing firm for an ideal, for a right, seeing the abysmal stupidity of both sides, but holding fast, fighting when need arose, for what the Loyalists believed in. .... Roberts has told great stories.... This is his best book.
It is a book I really liked when I first read it and it almost made me sympathetic to the Loyalist cause. The book does what a work of historical fiction is supposed to do. And it certainly makes clear the cost of revolution.

I took the image above from the web. My copy lost its dust cover before I owned it.

OLIVER WISWELL by Kenneth Roberts | Kirkus Reviews