The Break: Tales From a Revolution - Nova-Scotia Paperback – Illustrated, December 10, 2014
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"I liked the twists and turns, the character's weighings of options, the light humor throughout, and the very particular way the author has of dropping you in the time period through dialogue and everyday realities such as food items, medicinal practices. I love those kinds of details slipped in so a reader barely notices."
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"Hedbor brings particular life to these people through his magical use of language--through dialogue, through letters authentically penned."
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- Item Weight : 9.3 ounces
- Paperback : 201 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0989441083
- ISBN-13 : 978-0989441087
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.51 x 8.5 inches
- Publisher : Brief Candle Press; Illustrated edition (December 10, 2014)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #442,585 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Loyalists. Not the King's soldiers or the rebel rabble (our family portrayed said rabble for years), but ordinary citizens who believed in the King of England and all that entailed. Including a young girl and her father, her friend's family, and so many others. They sort of had choices: move away from their homes near Boston, stay and tolerate the harassment by their neighbors, or return to their ancestral homes. Susannah and her father moved to Nova Scotia even as the French speakers were being deported and her friend, Emma, and family remained. The story of the years just prior to and throughout the war is revealed through their letters to each other with all the social changes as well as personal ones. It's good to see the other side of a disagreement and not just through the perspective of soldiers. I have come to trust the author's diligence in thoroughly researching the factual matters and appreciate the humanization of all of his remarkable characters.
As this tale was told through the perspective of a girl, the narrator this time is Tamara Dohan who is very effective in her interpretation.
Of course I loved it!
First off, let me say, this book was very well-written. Absolutely. I think the author has immense talent. So most of this review will be about my personal reactions to the story.
Pro-con #1--the historical style. I thought the author did a great job at nailing the historical feel of the writing. There were only a couple of places where I wasn't sure about a word's usage at the time, and none where I was sure something was incorrect. That's quite a feat, especially to pull it off in both the dialogue and the narration! The con comes in the fact that the style of the time can feel a bit stuffy and stilted at times, so...maybe a bit too realistic! :)
Pro-con #2--the consistency of the characters' worldview. This is definitely a plus when it comes to authorial consistency and ability to write the characters and their world as they would have seen it, rather than as we see it with the benefit of centuries of hindsight. This is something I struggle with in a lot of historical fiction books, and the author absolutely nailed it here. However, to be honest, the very consistency of this particular worldview made for a bit of an uncomfortable read all the way through. Am I aware that there were disagreements in the colonies about the justice of the revolutionary cause? Absolutely. Do I realize that loyalists were mistreated (even brutally at times) by their patriot neighbors? Yes, I do. Am I naive enough to believe that every actor in the patriot cause and every action they took was 100% just and honorable? Not in the least. But here's the thing--this is my history, and these are my heroes, and it smarts a bit to hear them hounded as ungrateful dogs shamefully cutting down the brave soldiers of the king at the whims of a violent mob. It galls me to see her and her friends cutting off friendship with loved ones the moment they even begin to speak approvingly of certain patriot arguments. It saddens me to see those who side with the Revolution painted as either devious criminals or duped fools. Is this realistic to how Susannah and her friends would have felt, thought, and acted? No question. But that doesn't mean it was easy to read.
I guess the thing is, I've read other books where some characters were loyalists, and although, admittedly, they've probably given too rosy of a picture of strained but intact friendships, etc., it's hard not to want to see the perspective balanced. To be fair, this is one book in a series showcasing the war from many different perspectives, so the balance is there, as a whole. But this book specifically was (maybe necessarily) lacking in balance, and not on my side, which made it not a comfortable read. Moving on...
One thing that confused me, and that I don't think I ever got an answer to was how old Susannah was supposed to be. I thought I had guessed her approximate age at the beginning, but then some of the other details didn't line up with that, and after that I was totally lost on what her age was supposed to be. Also, there were a few times when the structure of flashbacks confused me a little, and I lost my place in the chronology for a bit. But those weren't major complaints.
The one other thing that really bothered me about the story was one plot point involving an immoral relationship that didn't seem to have a whole lot of reason for it. (That is, reason for the relationship to have been immoral to start with.) It also hit me completely out of the blue, and although one of the parties involved admitted that his conduct was "not entirely correct", there didn't seem to be any real remorse or apology for it, and aside from a bit of discomfort one one party affected but not directly involved, the whole thing was just pretty much overlooked. This I really didn't like, and if it had not been such a small part of the story, I might not have finished it.
Overall, this was a unique perspective and a well-written book; it just wasn't a really comfortable read for me.
I received a free copy of this book from the author. A positive review was not required. All opinions are my own.
Content--mentions of war, violence, and deaths; mentions of torture and hanging; mentions of wounds and blood (not graphic); mentions of an immoral relationship and a child conceived out of wedlock *spoiler* the parents are later married) *end spoiler*; mentions of a woman being violated by raiders; mention of a miscarriage; a few instances of mild language; allusions to an embarrassing examination and suspected disease, not specified but apparently sexual in nature
History is written by the winner, so the saying goes, and this is certainly evident in our own knowledge of the Revolution, its civil war like nature often unacknowledged. _The Break_ addresses this as the author in this installment places his focus on Susannah Mills, a Massachusetts girl whose loyalist father evacuates them to Halifax when the protesting of angry colonists shifts toward violence, endangering, in his estimation, their community.
Much of this tale of disruption and betrayal is told in letters back and forth between Susannah and her lifelong friend, Emma, who stays behind, an insightful technique on Hedbor’s part. The reader’s circumstance of being removed from the far-off situations reflects the writers’ own, and we get not only a personal sense of what it was like to read from afar. The dispatches depicting incidents outdated by the time they reach their destinations, we also know a bit more than the characters do regarding how it all will play out. But observation of their own following of affairs and relying on missives, the hopes for and fears of alive in the narrative, lends such poignancy to episodes, particularly as they are related in the words of those experiencing them; we wear their shoes and gain greater insight into the nature of “the enemy” who, in so many instances, is not so different to us. Indeed, war tests us all in ways we often don’t anticipate, and Susannah relays to Emma her fears of and disgust for rebel forces:
"At the same time, though it would seem madness to so engage in the face of so many seasoned & disciplined men of the King’s army, the air is here filled with words of intrigue & plots, & I can only imagine what tales you are hearing of events & conditions here. We are particularly alarmed by the stronghold of New-England men in the vicinity of the former fort at the St. John river, who have declared that they will conduct no business with those who maintain loyalty to the King. The military garrison here does not seem inclined to dispense with this threat, & in truth, some of those who have made the boldest statement against the King in public are all too happy to take our money in private."
A literary look at the perception of the enemy is fraught with peril, one danger being the vilification of one’s own people, something Hedbor adroitly avoids. In spotlighting ordinary royalists, he portrays a number of goodly actions, such as honesty and faithfulness. However, his characters’ actions do at times admit to us that they, too, face behavioral challenges. One bald-face lies, pretending to be witness to arson, rape and murder committed by rebels; another flirts with treason and Susannah’s own father engages in socially unacceptable behavior. The author’s even hand has no need to demonize one to honestly assess the other. As in the words of one loyalist, “I do not think that we need to exaggerate the ill-mannered actions of our foes in order to support the continued energetic opposition to their goals.”
As always, Hedbor’s language usage and food features also suit the era, though in _The Break_ this seems to beautifully stand out more. Susannah’s letters are liberally sprinkled with ampersands, that symbol we so often see in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century writing, along with her random capitalization and archaic words such as divers (many). We see such discussions as folkloric methods on butter churning and a song to accompany the task.
"Come butter come
Come butter come
Peter stands at the gate
Waiting for a buttered cake."
The greater feel of food and correspondence here likely relates to our protagonist being female, thus a bit more isolated from at least some hostilities than males of the era. However, the roles played by historical elements of women’s world in _The Break_ is never extraneous and Susannah has critical battles of her own to prosecute. The intersection between these two trajectories is fitted so perfectly that we can easily distinguish the girl’s intelligence, perseverance and passion.
Reading a portion of the Revolution from the loyalist perspective is a change of pace, but also informative and brings to the fore the realities of division created amongst many of those who were otherwise quite close: friends, family, countrymen. We see how some of our own history travels to far-flung spots (Nova Scotia, England) and it is somewhat fascinating to contemplate, via Hedbor’s tale, those whose American roots may yet remain buried there under layers of genealogy. Of course, this is not a new reflection, but one that promotes a re-unification of sorts, after that long-ago division.
There also is some thrill in spotting recognizable names,
"and I await your next missive with my Heart prepared for any manner of Joy that may be brought to a person [Emma writes]. Here our situation is subject to continued Improvements. The rebel Washington—formerly a Colonel in the King’s service, tho, they say, one much given to dourness and Error—is everywhere on the Run, and it can be only a matter of Time before he is brought to Justice, and his armies disbanded forever."
Susannah’s friend goes on to talk about the “dashing Notices of our General Howe’s successes in the field” and other goings-on, unaware of the role Hedbor assigns us as omnipotent readers and the turnaround soon to take place, nevertheless motivating us to consider history and all the what might have beens. Historical fiction that moves us enough to look into it apart from the story itself is powerful indeed, and Lars Hedbor’s storyboard stirring that sort of inspiration—which it does and then some, no matter where one picks up in the series—is all that much greater.