Friday, February 18, 2022

Loyalty; or The Revolutionary War Book You Really Need (Even though you don't think you do.)

Avi. Loyalty. 
February 1st 2022 by Clarion Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Noah and his family live outside of Boston in April, 1774. The father is a preacher and a Loyalist, and when he won't denounce the King, he is tarred and feathered and subsequently dies. With few options, especially with tensions increasing in their town, the mother approaches a local lawyer to try to sell the family house. He takes the house in exchange for his son, Abner, taking the family and their one trunk of possessions to the mother's uncle, William, in Boston. The uncle, who is a bachelor, reluctantly agrees to take the family into his small home, and is well pleased when they clean it up and make life easier for him by cooking. Noah needs a job, and manages to get connected to General Thomas Gage, who was an influential officer in the Birtish army in Boston. He gets Noah a job at the Green Dragon tavern, and has him report back on the activity of the Sons of Liberty. There, he meets a young, free Black man named Jolla who basically runs the tavern. The two get along, and Jolla and Noah's travels around Boston show Noah that not everything the British are doing is all that nice. Press gangs, enslaved Black soldiers, and other unfair practices shift Noah's opinions of where his loyalty should lie. When the Siege of Boston looks imminent, and Noah's older sister is with child and has a husband who is a militia man, Noah manages to get his family out of Boston. He and Jolla manage to survive for months, but in the end, realizes that the Boston he wants to see is at odds with the British vision for it, and that the victory of the colonists isn't as bad as he would have thought. 
Strengths: Quick! Name a book about the Revolutionary War. If you said Johnny Tremain, remember that this was written in 1943. This is an important historical era, yet fictional books on the topic are hard to come by, and ones that understand current thoughts about colonialism and race relations are even harder to find. Anderson's 2008 Chains is a good start, but it's a topic I've been trying to update for a long time in my library. Avi has the historical chops to do this justice, and for an 84 year old, has kept up with current thoughts on many topics. Jolla's inclusion is well done, and it's interesting to see Noah's perspective as a Loyalist and how that changes. The details of every day life are good, and the story moves along quickly. There's enough action and intrigue for the most die hard war obsessed reader, and the length is perfect.
Weaknesses: The diary format seemed a bit forced in this instance, although having the dates was helpful. 
What I really think: Buy a copy of this and weed Johnny Tremain. Really. It's fairly boring, and it was old when I was in school. History does change, or at least perception of events, and it's important to keep on top of these changes as they are reflected in the literature. Also look at Anderson's Chains series,  Hughes' Five Fourths of July, and Calkhoven's Daniel at the Siege of Boston

1 comment:

  1. Had to read your review of Avi's Loyalty. I love Avi (didn't realize he is 84) and plan to get a copy. You put so much thought put into your reviews and I'm glad to see that Avi offers a more complete perspective of that time period. Thank you for sharing!