69 of 70 people found the following review helpful
on October 14, 2001
Kenneth Roberts was a successful historical novelist in the 1930s and 40s, but faded in popularity after his death to the point that it was difficult to find his books outside of libraries. In fact, he had many strengths as a writer. In particular, he took seriously his obligations to accurately portray the historical period about which he was writing. For example, in this book his account of life in the Continental Army consists of mostly of marching great distances with little food. I imagine the soldiers of the time would agree. Roberts is also interesting for turning to less popular subjects of the time; a major character here is Benedict Arnold, who appears quite favorably. Roberts also does a good job of showing how much squabbling went on among the Continental Congress, a welcome relief to the current portrayal of all leaders back then as giants who have never been equaled. You need not be deeply interested in the American Revolution to enjoy this book.
43 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on September 9, 1999
Ten years ago I discovered an old hardcover copy of BOON ISLAND in my fathers closet. After having read it I desired to read more of this authors work but was regretfully delayed due to my formal scholastic pursuits. Last month I was in a Kennebunkport bookstore and discovered a section abundant of KENNETH ROBERTS' work. I selected ARUNDEL, read it and can't wait to move to the next one. Being an historian I had but little defense and was drawn-in by Roberts' vivid imagery and very accurate historical timeline. Having just visited Arundel I could envision Phoebe sailing along the rugged Maine coast while Steven Nason and Cap Huff prepared to answer the call for troops. The journey up the Kennebec to Quebec was never without adventure; this is where Roberts' talent for his craft shines the most: where other authors would falter, allowing their story to slow, Robert's provides his characters with dynamics that are realistic and not hard to follow. This is a book not to put down for if you do you may not know if Stevie finds Mary Mallison, if revenge is achieved over Gurelac, or what Cap Huff may do next.
49 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 1999
Kenneth Roberts is without doubt the finest historical novelist this country has ever produced. His work is the history of America in fictional settings, but it is authentic history, more accurate and reflective of the reality of this nation than most non-fiction works on the subject. Most of the people he writes about in Arundel really existed; and some were portraits of his Maine ancestors, whose stories he tells as exemplars of the people who founded this nation. In addition to being historically accurate to the most minute detail, his writing is poetic and moving. No one who has not read Roberts' work, most especially the "Chronicles of Arundel" (of which this book is one piece) can fully comprehend the American experience and how we came to be the nation we are. "Arundel" was his first novel, and after 65 years it still shines like a beacon to those who want the truth about the American Revolution, what it meant, and why it was fought. This is a book that changes lives. It will waken the dormant patriotism in the hearts of even the most cynical modernist. If you want to know why we are here and what America really stands for, read "Arundel," and then move on to his other work.
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on May 2, 2000
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This was by far the best work of historical fiction I have ever read. The characters are fascinating, the language beautiful, and the plot masterul. This book has everything a history lover could want-- mystery, intrigue, adventure, love, war, and best of all- an interesting look at a major historical figure. In this book Benedict Arnold emerges as the hero he was before his treason at West Point. And in the bargain you get a great story. So, pour a cup of hot chocolate, grab a blanket, and enjoy this American treasure on a cold winter's night!
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 2004
Wow! This book was absolutely amazing! It was so good, that I had to put it down for a while, go and do something else while I let it digest. Wonderful stuff.
After a bumpy start -with a rather mushy love scene between the 10 year old Mary Mallinson and Steven Nason- the book really gets into gear - with a real bang. Literally. A rude Frenchman and his Indian cronies shoots Mary's dad, takes the daughter, and carries her away to Canada. Steven Nason and his father follow them, hoping to reclaim the young girl, but are turned back when the boy gets a tomahawk through his head. Fortunately - for both him and the plot - he survives... but vows not to give up on his search for Mary Mallinson - even when his father gets pushed into frigid water by a maniacal priest, dies of pneumonia, and his son is obliged to take over his responsibilities.
The characterization is amazing! There's Cap Huff, Benedict Arnold, Phoebe, John the Wishy-Washy, Marie du Sabrevois - even Steven Nason himself is a complex character. If there was one fault in the book, it was Roberts' obsession with explaining over and over the day-to-day going-ons of the Maine Native Americans. After a while, I found I didn't care too much how bear meat was cooked, how loud a medicine man could howl, and the various Indian geneologies.
Besides that minor flaw - I must admit, I *do* have a short attention span - the book was excellent! Read it, I promise you'll enjoy!
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on July 3, 2000
In one's praise of Arundel, which indeed deserves the highest praise for a superbly written, well crafted story, it may be easy to overlook subtlties in the characterization, the chief of which is that of the narrator, Steven Nason, and may be mined from his own expression. His pursuit of Mary Mallinson, his struggles to come to terms with the independent and mocking Phoebe, say a great deal about a boy coming into manhood, befuddled and confused by two very different women, one carried in his memory, the other more real than at times he would like. He persists in trying to box Phoebe, a brave and resourceful sailor, into his ideas of what a woman "should" be, with rather amusing results. A brave and resourceful character himself, he is also never so silly as in Phoebe's mocking eyes, or when he huffs and splutters, from the height of his 18 or 20 years, of how he'd like to turn her over his knee. Steven's desire to reach Mary, a large part of his motivation for the march on Quebec (with his very real patriotism straggling up a rather distant second), is a sad journey, for again in Roberts' hands, one wonders if he is chasing no more than a chimera. The character of Phoebe grows and develops astonishingly, and is counterpointed by Stevie's difficulty with her personality and views, and her essential mystery. Phoebe is as real as Mary is an idea. Cap Huff is indeed hilarious, but it is easy, in his humorous depiction, to lose sight of the fact that as his stay in the novel lengthens, a peculiar complexity emerges; it would be tempting to consider the depiction of Cap to be rather uneven, were he not so tightly drawn. He may act foolishly, but he is no fool. Steven Nason's patriotism, as well, is realistic in that it grows rather haphazardly, a product of both necessity and idealism. And as mentioned by my fellow reviewers here, Benedict Arnold is a fine portrait. Roberts' writing style is worth mentioning. I am an historical essayist myself and have read a fair amount of both historical fact and fiction. There are few writers who have Roberts' supple facility of language -- he is economical in his description, and his narration reads both vigorously and smoothly; he doesn't struggle to ape the speech of the times, yet it, along with its rigorously accurate depictions, seems a very aperture into an earlier world. You will never read a bad book by Kenneth Roberts, and you'll probably be up to 2:00 every morning until you finish it.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on May 17, 1999
This book is one of the greatest historical novels I have ever read. It's written by one of the foremost authors of 18th century history Kennith Roberts. This book takes the reader back to a time when the Abenaki's ruled the land and the rivers were alive with fish. Roberts brings alive the sights and sounds of 18th century America in a way that no other writer can possibly do. " While they were still thickly bunched my father and Rabomis picked up the other muskets and fired again; and again the wild fowl fell back into the pool and marsh like a storm of water melons. Ducks and geese by the thousands and hundred thousand sprang into the air." (Roberts, p 72) Roberts follows a young man, Stephen Nason, through the French and Indian War and into the Revolutionary War as he searches for his childhood love. His love Mary was taken from him by the Heron Indians who also killed her father. This book written with the same historical detain as Northwest Passage. I recomond this book to anyone who likes romance, adventure, and history.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 1998
I first read Arundel over 30 years ago and it helped make me into a history teacher. Seemingly unimportant incidents in the narrative have proven, upon further research into non-fictional sources, to have actually happened. Kenneth Roberts was THE greatest historical novelist in American History. He proved that a wholesome romance can keep the reader's interest. The main characters do not have to perform in bed for us in order to keep our interest. And yet, he does not wince from the reality of treachery, betrayal and sexual immorality. It is simply done with style and good taste. Why this book was never been made into a movie is incomprehensible, except that Roberts' NORTHWEST PASSAGE was hopelessly butchered by Hollywood in 1939 and he vowed never to release the rights to his works again (I think). Does anyone out there know the reason?
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I cannot add much to the previous reviews, but would like to add my voice to those who recommend this excellent novel set in pre-Revolutionary America. The author tells an interesting story (the rescue of a kidnapped girl) within the context of a larger event of interest (Benedict Arnold's march to Quebec), and the narrator is such a likable and knowledgeable protagonist that the reader learns a great deal about the times without even being aware of it.
I would say this book could be enjoyed at many age levels. I intend to give it as a gift to high school-aged relatives, and I will definitely look for more books by this author.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on March 14, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I loved this book from the day I read it in in 1971. This is the way historical fiction should be written. Historically accurate, good dialogue, sound character development woven with a personal voice of the narrator. In this case it is Steven Nason a young inkeeper and blacksmith from Maine who takes us from a kidnapping of a young woman in 1759 to the gates of Quebec on the snowy night of December 31, 1775 as a small army of American revolutionaries lead by Benedict Arnold attempt to take the greatest citadel in North America from the British.
The book's understory is the attempt by Nason to find the young woman in Quebec and wreak revenge on the man who took her. Will Nason find his long lost friend and redeem her? Will his personal redemption come from something or someone more unexpected?
Roberts paints his historical characters and events with great accuracy and fullness. You feel like you know Arnold, Daniel Morgan, Aaron Burr and others as they endure a grueling 600 mile journey through the wilderness of Maine and Canada in their attempt to seize Quebec. The march to Quebec, siege and assault on Quebec are told in riverting detail. If you want a great understanding about this campaign, I recommend this book highly. If you want a great read, I recommend this book even higher. Enjoy!