Sunday, January 16, 2011

Historical Fiction - The Rebellion of Jane Clarke by Sally Gunning

The Rebellion of Jane Clarke is a historical fiction novel aimed at an adult audience, though it is perfectly readable for older teenagers (15, 16+) as well. I just realized that it's actually the second book in Gunning's Satucket series, the first being The Widow's War. That said, it can be read as a stand-alone.

The book is about, well, Jane Clarke. When her story opens in 1769, she is a young woman living in the small town of Satucket, Massachusetts. Her father wants her to marry Phinnie Paine, but independent Jane isn't sure if that's what she really wants. Mr. Clarke doesn't like this independence in a woman, so he sends her packing to her aunt's in Boston. Hopefully living with this "troublesome" old aunt will cure Jane of her willfulness.

Once in Boston, however, Jane meets a new suitor, reads some great books, and gets caught up in the early conflicts between Loyalists and Patriots. The Boston Massacre was in 1770, remember? But the Massacre isn't the main point of the book, despite what the back of the cover says. Most of the plot focuses on the general confusion and turmoil of the buildup to the American Revolution. Jane's family and friends are split on both sides of the conflict, and, while she hears horror stories of how the Redcoats treat the colonists, the soldiers she's met seem to be perfectly nice and polite. Oh - one more thing - just how innocent and absent-minded is this old aunt of hers?

Things I liked about The Rebellion of Jane Clarke:
1. It seemed to be historically accurate.
2. The historical part wasn't just an excuse for a pooly-written romance story. There was some romance, but unlike a lot of historical fiction I've run across, the romance wasn't the main storyline.
3. The story focused on an interesting part of history - the buildup to, not the middle of or a single battle of, the American Revolution. Gunning did a great job of portraying the internal conflicts that a lot of colonists faced during this time as they debated what side of the issue was right, even if half their friends and relatives disagreed with their choice.
4. Jane reads several of the popular novels of her time, like Clarissa by Samuel Richardson. As an 18th-century fiction fan, this means a lot to me. :)
5. The pace of Gunning's writing was leisurely. The plot was relatively slow, but not slow enough to be boring.
6. Jane herself was a great character. Readers can easily identify with her. She's also very independent, especially for a woman of her time, but at the same time her character isn't unrealistic for a woman of the 18th century (cough cough, Abigail Adams and the like).

Maturity Factor: Some of Jane's suitors got a little too touchy-feely, in my opinion. I don't think there was anything that would count as R-rated, though.

The ARC copy of this book was received through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program, and I posted a shorter version of this review on LibraryThing back in May, 2010. The book was published by William Morrow (an imprint of HaperCollins) in June, 2010.

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