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Top Customer Reviews
The novel begins in April 1775, when the protagonist is ejected from his home by American rebels, and ends in 1783, when the war has ended and he and other Loyalists leave their home country to establish roots in Canada. In between, the author manages to have Oliver plausibly meeting some of the most interesting characters involved (General Howe, John Vardill, John Cruger, etc) and at the scene of many of the war's most interesting events (the Battle of Bunker (Breed's) Hill, the rebels' surrender of New York, the intrigue-ridden courts of Paris and London, the trek to Kentucky by fleeing Tories along Boone's Wilderness Trail, the siege of Ninety Six and Benedict Arnold's campaign in the south, and the Loyalists' post-war settlement in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Gibralter, Bermuda and the Bahamas). Furthermore, we become involved in the personal lives of several main characters: the young Mr.Read more ›
The title character is a well-educated New Englander who is disgusted with the rabble-rousing politics of Boston agitators like Samuel Adams and John Hancock, and when forced to pick sides when fighting began, chose to side with the crown. He is recruited as a spy / intelligence gatherer and sent on various missions to Long Island, London, Paris, and South Carolina, accompanied by an extraordinarily resourceful and clever jack-of-all-trades named Tom Buell.
The book is essentially a fictional autobiography, covering the entire American Revolution through the perspective of a person actively involved in the events of a tumultuous period. Therefore a long book is necessary. Nor does the action move slowly. But Roberts's dialogue often lapses into long-winded speech-making by the loyalist characters (especially Buell) as they express their reasons for opposing the rebellion, and their frustration with the hardships they experience. The account of Wiswell's mission to London and Paris might well have been omitted, although it provides the reader, through Wiswell, an inside view of the confused workings of the King's government. Without understanding or ever speaking a word of French, Wiswell is deployed to capture diplomatic papers from Ben Franklin, the American plenipotentiary in France. Two of Wiswell's friends from America appear in Paris as extremely implausible fellow spies for the loyalist cause.Read more ›
This book is another offering from a writer who can literally place the reader into the pages of his book and keep you there until the last page. The characters of the several books are cross-referenced enough so one gets the impression of a larger historical community. This allows Roberts to maintain continuity yet keeps him from writing in a historical vacuum. The reader will follow Wiswell's journey from New England to the southern colonies and ultimately beyond the borders of the United States.
With any luck, this and the rest of Roberts' books will never go out of print.
The reader also gets an excellent insight into the viewpoints of the British, Loyalists, and Patriots during the conflict. So, I strongly recommend that all 4 books be read together (indeed, back in 1976 they were issued together as "A Reader on the American Revolution.")
So, why did I add "But..." to my review title?
Because I emphasize that the only way to fully understand Oliver Wiswell is to first read the other novels. In the book, Oliver is the Loyalist son of a well-to-do son of a rich Boston attorney. The society he comes from is the country's aristocracy of the time... rich, well educated, supremely disdainful of the "rabble" that is fighting for the American cause during the war. First read Rabble in Arms to get an understanding of the tremendous suffering and deprivation the Patriots suffered during the Revolution with incredible selflessness. Learn how they fought against all odds for their country, with little or no pay, often times with poor leadership and little food, and no personal gain while facing thousands of professional, well trained and armed soldiers and foreign mercenaries (not to mention Indians that were capable of quite savagely killing and scalping entire families or defenseless women like Jennie McCrae).Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A father's day gift, and wow! he loves it! had to open it right away...Published 1 month ago by Leenie
A fascinating view of Revolutionary times from "the other side". Very thought-provoking, aside from Oliver's predicament. Great (true) history lesson .Published 4 months ago by Gunner
Kenneth Roberts wrote this about the American Revolution from the British side. It was just as interesting as the one from the American side (Rabble in Arms). Read morePublished 10 months ago by Diane Van Wormer
Engrossing, entertaining and educational. And daring. This is a daring Revolutionary War novel because it is told from the point of view of the Loyalists, not the victorious rebel... Read morePublished 11 months ago by CMartel
I am not a history buff. Just reading this for a book club. It is excellent. It keeps moving from one interesting scenario to the next. I highly recommend it. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Sharon F. Stradel
Kenneth Roberts' best novel and an original take on the RevolutionPublished 16 months ago by Kevin Howe
What a find! Over 800 pages, this well-written story of the American Revolution from the perspective of a British Loyalist takes off like a bat out of hell from the very start. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Michael J Caruso