- Series: Broadview Editions
- Paperback: 420 pages
- Publisher: Broadview Press; 1 edition (February 18, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1551118394
- ISBN-13: 978-1551118390
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,586,662 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Reuben and Rachel: or, A Tale of Old Times (Broadview Editions) 1st Edition
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“Wrongly neglected for decades in favor of Rowson’s better-known Charlotte Temple, Reuben and Rachel is a fascinating story of ten generations of Christopher Columbus’s descendants, who experience colonization and captivity, seduction and sedition, and reframe American history as a richly complicated series of exchanges with unpredictable and unsettling results for national mythology. All readers interested in the transnational and interracial constructions of U.S. nationhood, in the expansion and shrinking of female agency, or in the various genres that comprise Reuben and Rachel will recognize the significant contribution Joseph F. Bartolomeo has made by bringing this captivating novel back into print and by highlighting its historical and literary importance with lucid notes, rich topical appendices, and a smart, well-crafted introduction that brings the novel into contemporary critical discussions with admirable clarity and insight.” ― Christopher Castiglia, Pennsylvania State University
“This edition of Rowson’s Reuben and Rachel is a most welcome resource for anyone seeking to understand how an eighteenth-century feminist conceived of gender roles and women’s rights in the context of Enlightenment discourse about individual liberty. It will be of equal interest to those interested in understanding how a transatlantic writer fashioned a Columbus myth suited to the particular cultural needs of an early American republic in search of a national identity. Joseph F. Bartolomeo’s introduction, notes, and appendices help the reader to more fully appreciate the significance of Rowson’s work in both transatlantic and early American contexts.” ― Michael Householder, Southern Methodist University
From the Back Cover
Susanna Haswell Rowson, a popular and prolific writer, actress, and educator in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, had a truly transatlantic life and career, moving twice from England to America and publishing extensively in both countries. A transatlantic sensibility informs her fictionalized “history” of America, Reuben and Rachel, which traces ten generations of an extended family, beginning with the marriage of Christopher Columbus’s son to a native Peruvian princess, moving through the Tudor succession crises and the colonial settlement of New England, and ending with the title characters, who leave England for America, renounce titles of nobility, and consider their children “true-born Americans.” In Rowson’s representation, the American character derives from fusion and hybridity, the results of intermarriage across racial, religious and national lives.
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Top customer reviews
First, have a pen and paper handy. No, make that a pencil and paper, because you will be erasing things. This is important because, ultimately, REUBEN AND RACHEL is a multi-generational saga that will expand on a family tree way too intricate for you to keep track of in your head. And, to make matters worse, the story will begin somewhere in the middle of that family tree, trace itself back through a series of letters, and then continue forward in a way that reminded me of a full-speed locomotive.
Now that you are prepared, let's talk about the two volumes of this story. The first volume is mostly historical. There's not a lot of action, there is some, but it's nothing compared to the second. Mostly, you need to remember that Rowson was playing with a very important historical figure here (Christopher Columbus) and teasing out his relationship with Ferdinand and Isabella. This leads into a very convoluted story that explores the exploitation of people in Peru, the glorification of Columbus into a sort of Christ-like figure, and finally, the worship of Isabella as she reappears in the names of various women in Columbus's genealogy throughout the book.
That said, once you get through the letters and move onto the the actual saga, things get interested. Provided you keep track of where you are (again, the pencil and paper help for notes - get used to pinging and ponging back and forth across the Atlantic), the story moves at a good pace. Just don't expect the title characters to show up for a while.
On page 194, just a mere page away from the start of Volume 2, REUBEN AND RACHEL make their appearance. It's incredible what you've gone through at this point. There's incest, murder, various deaths due to other natural reasons, chains, arrests, rape, accusations... the list goes on and on. So it was a relief to finally get to the title characters, as you can imagine. Little did I know.
Volume 2 flies by, folks. Seriously, hang on to your seat and keep that pencil and paper handy because all sorts of men will fly in and out of Rachel's life. If you get invested into stories like I do, you will find yourself gasping out loud and angry and righteously incensed at the mistreatment of Reuben and Rachel from the various people in their lives but that is what Rowson wants! Remember that! There are even moments when she interjects her own voice to bring you around to her way of thinking.
This is a book that spawns hours of conversation in a classroom so keep that in mind when you pick it up. Choose it for a book club or read it in partnership with a friend so you can have someone to discuss it with. I promise, REUBEN AND RACHEL will hold your interest just as much as any modern thriller would. Just give yourself time to invest yourself in it.