Saturday, October 18, 2008
book review: "the whiskey rebels"*
The Whiskey Rebels by David Liss is a big book and yet I practically read it in one sitting, allowing only the responsibilities of parenting to intervene.
Set in the late 1700s, the book is a piece of meticulously researched historical fiction (at times perhaps a little too meticulously, in terms of detail, but that is my only criticism and it's nit-picking, really). I learned a lot about American history leading up to the Whiskey Rebellion (and the presidency of Thomas Jefferson). I also found myself devouring the details of the early US banking system (truly!).
But it was the plot and characters of the book (along with beautiful writing) that hooked me from the very first page.
The story moves back and forth between two principal (and fictional) characters, Ethan Saunders (a disgraced soldier) and Joan Maycott (a woman who sets out with her husband to settle on the Pennsylvania frontier and becomes a whiskey maker). Both characters are flawed yet intensely compelling. And I fell in love with each of them, as the story moves them towards conflict with each other.
The narrative moves smoothly between perspectives and the author speaks convincingly in the voice of each character It's not easy to write in the voice of someone who is very different from ourselves, yet even Joan Maycott is a believable character whose behaviour and dialogue rings true.
I had never read anything by David Liss before the Whiskey Rebels, but I have since ordered every other book he has written from the library.
Absolutely one of my favourites this year.
*This is a review of a book that was sent to me via Library Thing's Early Reviewer Program.