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1: The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party Paperback – January 22, 2008
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Now in paperback, this deeply provocative novel reimagines the past as an eerie place that has startling resonance for readers today.
Young Octavian is being raised by a group of rational philosophers known only by numbers -- but it is only after he opens a forbidden door that learns the hideous nature of their experiments, and his own chilling role them. Set in Revolutionary Boston, M. T. Anderson’s mesmerizing novel takes place at a time when Patriots battled to win liberty while African slaves were entreated to risk their lives for a freedom they would never claim. The first of two parts, this deeply provocative novel reimagines past as an eerie place that has startling resonance for readers today.
"Anderson’s imaginative and highly intelligent exploration of . . . the ambiguous history of America’s origins will leave readers impatient for the sequel." -- THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
- Format: Paperback
- Publication Date: 1/22/2008
- Pages: 384
- Reading Level: Age 14 and Up
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Thank goodness for the Kindle, because we BOTH needed to look up several words a page. And there were some parts I paraphrased. THat said, I think my son has really benefited from this very human story about a boy being raised in the poshest of circumstances only to learn as he grows up that he is a slave and subject of a velvet gloved experiment.
He is able to accept that -- as long as he is in the hands of professors who want to prove just how able he is. When the college falls on hard times and is taken over, Octavian's world is turned upside down.
Tough but really amazing read. I think my son and I are both getting a lot out of it.
Set just before the American Revolution, this truly astonishing tale is told from Octavian's perspective, as someone who does not know the results of the war. Although the reader has the benefit of hindsight, Octavian does not, and his journey takes many twists and turns as he tries to discover the true meanings of liberty and patriotism.
As a history lover, I am obsessed with this book and Volume II, A Kingdom on Waves. Perfect for anyone who loves history.
Octavian and his mother are the subjects of an experiment being conducted by the Novanglian College of Lucidity, a group of scholars. The experiment seeks to determine whether individuals of African descent are able to be taught and accomplish the same niceties as individuals of European ancestry. Ironically, in treating Cassiopeia and Octavian as experimental "animals," the College negates the possibility of proving whether the premise is valid or not. Further, Octavian, his mother, and the other servants are the only individuals, initially, who are referred to by name. Members of the college have been assigned numbers, which dehumanizes those individuals in the same way they have attempted to dehumanize others. It is only as the novel proceeds and individuals begin to show some sympathy for Octavian that a name is given the particular individual within the story's context.
This is an extraordinary novel. The provocative themes which run throughout the book cause the reader to pause and consider what might have been had slavery not existed for nearly 100 years following the American Revolution. Written partly as a personal narrative, but also incorporating fictionalized examples of newspaper clippings and postings, the era in which the novel is set is reinforced in both its tone and attitude. While the novel is purported to be geared toward readers from ninth grade and beyond, it is really a novel for any reader who seeks literature that is thought-provoking and intelligently written. I recommend "The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing" for anyone who loves to read. This is a novel that will stay with you long after you have placed it on the shelf.