As you know by now, I’m a history addict and a fan of Lars Hedbor’s historical fiction series, Tales of a Revolution. Over spring break, I had the honor of reading two of his latest releases. The first, The Wind, posted right after I read it. This is the second. It’s sort of fitting that it’s posting on Independence Day.
The Break is another off-the-beaten-path story of the Revoutionary War. This one starts in that very familiar epicenter of rebellion, Boston, and portrays quite realistically the violence visited on those who chose to remain loyal to the crown. Susannah Mills’ father is faced with the difficult choice—stay and take a chance with his family’s health and safety, or abandon his holdings and forge a new life in a safer locale. Like many Tories, he leaves Boston and repairs to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Though the lower colonies tried to enlist the Canadian colonies to join their rebellion, Canada remained steadfast. This is part of that story.
I particularly enjoyed reading this account from the flip viewpoint. The Tory perspective is neglected, even vilified, in our history books, but Hedbor very accurately reminds us that this was indeed a civil war, one that split friends and families down the middle as much as that greater Civil War of a later date, and that theirs was a valid viewpoint. Actually, it was the more reasonable, more conservative of the two. Sometimes we forget that the Royalists weren’t villains. The fact that The Break is told from this point of view, without ever changing to a more “patriotic” loyalty, makes for a unique and authentic voice. It’s odd to think that if history had turned out differently, it would be the firebrands who would be held in disdain today.
Having applauded Susannah Mills’ unique perspective, I confess I had a difficult time actually “seeing” the war through her eyes. The reader’s vision is constricted by the daily life of this proper middle class young lady, with most of the scenes confined to the inside of her own house, the store, or a small scope of the town. Vital information such as the battles for Quebec and Montreal, even the skirmishes and the building of forts very near to Halifax, are passed to us secondhand. It gave me a greater sympathy for the sheltered life of young women. But I wished it had been told through the freer perspective of Colin MacRae, her would-be suitor, who I found to be the more interesting character.
Even so, we’re treated to a broad scope of the rebellion and to the daily lives of those who lived through it. And once again, Hedbor brings particular life to these people through his magical use of language—through dialogue, through letters authentically penned with random capitalization and antiquated (British) spellings, and through the use of wonderful old words that we have, sadly, let go from our modern vocabulary (like my favorite, “poncy”). Let me give you a few examples of his gift for vernacular:
“They are small boys, playing with fire in a storehouse because it pleases them to see their shadows leap upon the walls. They will soon discover to their regret that they are not so large as their shadows permit them to believe that they are.”
“I will not stay here and expose you to the whims of the mob as they drag our community into the very flames of the hereafter.”
“I forget at times that I am not at my table of peers, and that your interests are far different from the high questions of philosophy that haunt the depths of our cups.”
“The loss and pain that we experience between the cradle and the grave is all part of the plan of the great Author of the world to instruct our souls on the meaning of strength and faith.”
As always, The Break is beautifully written and history faithfully portrayed. Written for adults, it is nevertheless appropriate for a high school audience. Ages 14+