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Pursuit of Happiness Paperback – October 20, 2010

5 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Sheldon Greene's Pursuit of Happiness is a rousing, richly detailed piece of historical fiction set during the American Revolution. Equal parts adventure and romance, and teeming with colorful characters, the novel tells the story of Joshua Rutledge, a Philadelphia Quaker and cooper's son, and Amelia Sayre, the beautiful wife of a cruel and domineering plantation owner named Duncan. When the novel opens, both Joshua and Amelia are leading lives of protected innocence; each longs for something more but doesn't know where (or how) to seek fulfillment. Soon the American Revolution impinges on them in ways neither could imagine. A childhood friend calls upon Joshua, an ardent pacifist, to join in the American war effort. George Washington's army has dwindled to a few thousand poorly outfitted men. Resistant at first, Joshua eventually accedes to his friend's appeal and soon finds himself involved in the war as a spy. Remarkably, he obtains the information that leads to Washington's rout of the British in the Battle of Trenton, a victory that breathes new life into the revolution. The success of Joshua's reconnaissance mission leads to another assignment: to find a large shipment of French arms and escort the cache back through a British blockade of American ports. The journey takes Joshua to Haiti via the fictional island of St. Catherine's. Along the way he meets Alexander Da Costa, the mixed-blood son of a Jewish merchant, and to whom Joshua entrusts half of the arms shipment. Moreover, in St. Catherine's, he falls in love with Amelia, whom he meets immediately upon his arrival. The narrative build-up to this meeting and the passionate affair that follows is wholly enjoyable. Unlike his first spy mission, however, this second mission proves only half-successful, since only Joshua, and not Alexander, is able to return to the colonies. But within this apparent "failure" lies Joshua's way back to St. Catherine's and Amelia, this time as a marine captain determined to find Alexander and a missing arms shipment that could mean the difference between victory and defeat for American patriots. As a work of historical fiction, Greene's novel is as meticulously researched as it is conceived and executed. The writer evokes the Revolutionary period, and the people and places of that time, with an artfulness and grace that makes for easy immersion in the novel. Although events seem almost too neatly interconnected at times, Greene's impeccable sense of novelistic pacing, characterization, and plot vividly demonstrates his skill as a literary craftsman, and creates an especially entertaining and memorable read. Pursuit of Happiness is as much a story of the colonial quest for independence as it is that of a young man finding his identity and place in the world. Maude Adjarian, Clarion Reviews --Maude Adjarian, Clarion Reviews

I recommend this book to all fiction readers and some who prefer a little nonfiction thrown in for good measure. It is a real find and so enjoyable to read. Another treasure by Sheldon Greene. Mary Ligonor, Book Pleasures --Mary Lignor, Book Pleasures

Historical novels have never been at the top of my list for choices in reading material, but since I've read Pursuit of Happiness by Sheldon Greene, they have moved far up on the list. --Lisa Binion,Fiction Editor, Bellaonline,

Product Details

  • Paperback: 474 pages
  • Publisher: BookSurge Publishing (October 20, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439262446
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439262443
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,546,022 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Pursuit of Happiness" is a tale of love, war and conscience during the early days of the American Revolution. Joshua Rutledge, the younger son of a Philadelphia Quaker family of barrel-makers, is in the right places at the right times. He drinks in the taverns of Philadelphia as the ideological underpinnings of the revolution are subject to heated debate. He crosses the icy Delaware River with George Washington, observing the general's inspiring leadership in conditions of severe deprivation. He visits a Jewish financier of the Patriots' cause in New York. He runs the British naval blockade to try to obtain a shipment of desperately needed arms from the fictional Caribbean island of St. Catherine's. While on St. Catherine's he falls in love with Amelia Sayre, the unconventional, unhappy wife of a brutal British sugar cane plantation owner and encounters a slave rebellion. There's plenty of suspense as we wonder whether Joshua's various endeavors will prove successful.

Author Sheldon Greene displays empathy for every one of his engaging, multi-layered characters, even the odious ones, and spins them a fast-paced, exciting adventure set among carefully-researched historical people and events. His writing is deft and vivid. In a stand-out scene, he handles the death of an unsympathetic character with particular thoughtfulness and grace. He draws readers into his characters' dilemmas of conscience and educates us about the people and ideas that shaped the Revolution without excessive stream-of-consciousness chatter or pedantry.

Perhaps most important, "Pursuit of Happiness" reminds us that unlike any country that previously existed, the United States's borders were not established based on ethnic or religious allegiances, nor was it governed by those who inherited power.
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Format: Paperback
I had read the description of the book as written by the author and expected to find myself "grabbed from the first page" but I was not so grabbed! The beginning and for quite a few pages was used to describe the books characters, surrounding nature, the description of the clothing, and in general, the times. However, after the first part of the book things got very interesting as more of the Revolutionary War and the characters of that war were introduced making the reader then "be grabbed"! The authors' descriptive writing made the story very intriguing. You will meet George Washington and many of the military and government leaders of the day.

Amelia Sayre was married to Duncan seemingly in name only. Duncan promised much but rarely followed through, such as the six-months in Europe that never materialized. Duncan also wanted no parts of children, a fact that Amelia found so wrong for a married couple. Amelia would look out to the sea waiting for ships to sail into port hoping that something new would arise from that arrival. Amelia had her friends and Rachel was probably the closest. Slavery was very much a part of the times. Some slaves were given some freedom within the family they worked for but were never totally free. They took their unbearable punishment if they did not obey to the letter of their masters.

Joshua Rutledge was a Quaker and Quakers are pacifists, or are supposed to be and Joshua strongly believed that that was the way to live during these times of war. He would not fight even though many in the government tried to talk him into helping the Americans, knowing what a leader he was. General George Washington and some of his military leaders figured they could get Joshua to help by conveying information back and forth.
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Format: Paperback
Historical novels have never been at the top of my list for choices in reading material, but since I've read "Pursuit of Happiness" by Sheldon Greene, they have moved far up on the list. This intriguing story takes place during the American Revolution.

This book, sent to me free by the author, is recommended for those who want to learn more about the revolution that freed the American colonies from the rule of England. An irresistible story of romance and suspense is woven into the actual happenings of the war that ensured this nation's freedom from the British.

Through Greene's descriptions and dialogue, we experience the hardships Washington and his men faced during the bleak, cold winters of the Northeast. The Continental Army's deprivation of blankets, warm clothing, and shoes caused many of the men to fall sick. The enemy would not expect such a ragtag army to cross the icy Delaware on Christmas Eve during a fierce winter storm. Their crossing was planned to surprise the enemy and give the dying Continental Army a much needed boost.

Joshua Rutledge, the main character in the story, is a Quaker whose desire to fight for the colonists is hampered out of respect for his dying father. Quaker beliefs prohibit the taking up of arms and fighting. Then an opportunity arrives for Joshua to participate in the war effort and help those fighting for the freedom of America from England without doing any actual fighting - he is to be a spy and aid in the French shipment of arms to the Continental Army. All of this must be done in secret and with the aid of a Jewish ship owner.

His mission as a spy takes him to the fictional island of St. Catherine's. One of the first people he becomes involved with on the island is Petra Spain.
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