Saturday, July 17, 2010

Book Review - "The Rebellion of Jane Clarke" by Sally Gunning

It's 1769, and twenty-two-year-old Jane Clarke isn't sure what she wants. She knows she's not interested in Joseph Woollen. Her father wants her to marry Phinnie Paine, who will also take over her father's mill, but when attempting to engage Phinnie in a discussion over events in Boston and getting only noncommittal replies, Jane isn't sure she wants Phinnie either. She does enjoy nursing, so when her father gets angry because she's spurned his chosen one and sends her to tend to Aunt Gill in Boston, Jane decides to make the most of the opportunity.

She journeys by boat from her home in Cape Cod to the town of Boston, which is fast becoming the center of tension between the King's soldiers and many of the colonists who are starting to think of themselves as Americans and not as Englishmen. Aunt Gill's household includes Martha and Prince, who seem like they have something to hide, but Jane does her best to protect her aunt from whatever schemes they're concocting. She also meets Henry Knox at the bookshop where Aunt Gill gets her writing paper. A deep friendship blossoms, and Jane begins observing relationships and marriages and tries to figure out what she would like for herself.

Jane is thrust into the swirl of public opinion when she unwittingly becomes an observer of the set-to soon known as the Boston Massacre. What she witnessed is not exactly like the rumors going around town, and she is pressed to give testimony. She does so in court, and in the process she comes into herself as an adult with a mind of her own and not as a child still under her father's thumb.

Lovers of historical fiction will find much here to enjoy. The reader is immersed in life in Colonial America, with all the mud and slop and hard kitchen work, but also with the ideas of freedom and self-rule taking hold. Marriage is a running theme, from Jane's father and stepmother to patriot James Otis and his loyal wife to Jane's grandparents, Lyddie and Eben Freeman. The definition of home also pops up, with the patriots turning their backs on a land they have never seen and with Jane needing to find her place in the world.

Jane herself comes across as something of an indecisive wimp, but then she is also a woman a little ahead of her time. She is definitely of marrying age, but she wants more than just a marriage of convenience. She wants a man who loves her and who will engage her as a person with a mind of her own. She wants independence and a useful occupation, so at least she does have her nursing. She feels pulled in different directions by the men in her life, such as her patriot brother, but in the end she does what is right for her.

Pick up this book if you like historical fiction or if you like your female characters empowered but not overpowering.

No comments:

Post a Comment