Volume I, The Pox Party saw Octavian escape slavery (and the gross experiment to which he was subjected) and join the rebel cause. Now, betrayed by the Patriots, he’s fled with his tutor Dr. Trefusis back to Boston before answering Lord Dunmore’s call to freedom serving the Loyalist’s cause.
To sum it up in one word, all I can say is that it was an amazing read – a real experience (which you can’t say about every book out there). I’m definitely not feeling intelligent enough to give Volume II a proper review. Anderson really is a brilliant writer and storyteller. If you had any qualms about reading the antiquated English of the Pox Party, however then you probably won’t want to read this one, which is longer (by 200 pages) and perhaps more esoteric as the classically-educated Octavian comes of age. That’s not to say that it isn’t fast-paced or rewarding. Not only is this excellent historical fiction (including actual eighteenth-century Revolutionary war documents), but it forces us to face profound issues of morality. What is liberty? What is equality? What is history and how do we relate to the crimes of our forefathers? Both books should be required reading for high school American history. As always I loved the different media – journal entries (from various POV), letters, declarations, and other documents that make up this volume. Perhaps not quite as compelling as the first (as it’s more of a traditional war novel), but it offers a deeply satisfying ending for the extraordinary Octavian. Impeccably researched, thought-provoking, startling, and moving. Again I’ll let some quotes speak for themselves:
I gazed upon my hands; upon the knuckles, and upon the palms.
“What,” I asked Dr. Trefusis, “is color?”
“Epicurus maintains that everything we see, we see because a fine film of atomies is constantly shed by all matter, a sort of mist of particles which strikes the eye.”
“So color, sir, is a shedding of the skin?”
“I suppose my boy, one might phrase it thus.”
“Color is the loss of person. Dispersed into the air.”
Dr. Trefusis smiled.
I said, “And in order for us to be seen, we must constantly be losing some part of our being.” (72)
“Altruism … is the kind of pie best eaten with a lot of gravy and little inspection of the kind of kidney it’s stuffed with.” (101)
“I would think, that to make a man a good soldier, you must first make a man worth losing.” (152)
“We none of us reach manhood … That is the great secret of men. We aim for manhood always and always fall short.” (267)