Search This Blog

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Finally Finished Reading... Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson

I bought this at the Reading Matters conference earlier this year. Laurie Halse Anderson is new to me, but she spoke very well at the conference. She does both contemporary and historical fiction. Forge is the sequel to Chains. Both are set during the American Revolution. In Chains, the viewpoint was that of Isabel, a slave whose mistress had left Isabel and her younger sister, Ruth, their freedom in her will, but whose nephew sold them anyway. Isabel's sister was sold away during the course of the novel. Understandably furious, Isabel had made plans for her escape, after being let down by the Patriots for whom she had been stealing information from her Tory master. She'd been doing that on the understanding that these were the good guys, who would help her get her freedom and find her sister. She had been persuaded by a fellow slave, Curzon, who was working for the Patriots.

The two of them have escaped together, after she helped him out of a Tory prison, but between Chains and Forge, Isabel has left Curzon and this novel is seen from his viewpoint, though he does meet her again later in the book. And Curzon, unlike Isabel, still believes that the Patriots are the good guys. He has been fighting with the American army after his master promised him freedom and money for doing so, and hadn't intended to do any more fighting, but somehow he does end up back in the army, with real friends as well as a nasty enemy or two, and while it's no fun - this is Valley Forge, where a lot of stuff ups led to the men going cold and hungry and getting sick - at least he gets some respect. At least until his former master turns up and has changed his mind...

I remember hearing the author talk about how she came to write these books, about how she would "totally have dated" Benjamin Franklin, till she found out he was a slave owner, who freed his slaves only in his will(and he died in his eighties). That led to more research and she has done quite a lot for both these books. The fact is, of the first eleven US Presidents, only four didn't own slaves, one of them being John Adams, which pleases me since I loved the musical of which he was the hero. And while the Patriots of that time rambled on about freedom, they weren't including African slaves in "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". That didn't stop them from recruiting African Americans when Washington finally decided it was a good idea to let them join.  And, as the author says in her notes, there just wasn't anywhere they could go to escape from slavery altogether, since it was legal in all thirteen states and Canada. Understandably there were quite a few who fought for the British, who had promised freedom to any who joined them. Unfortunately, when the Americans won and the British fled, many of these were abandoned to their fate.

I really must check out some of the books in Laurie Halse Anderson's bibliography!

Meanwhile, I'm wondering if the third book in this series is available yet. It's wonderful historical fiction and I'd like to see what happens next to Curzon and Isabel.

No comments: