Sunday, September 26, 2004

Rise To Rebellion

By Jeff Shaara

If you walked up to the average American standing on the street and asked them on what date The Declaration of Independence was signed the most likely answer you would get is "Everyone knows that, July 4th, 1776." Or try asking him "Which hill was the Battle of Bunker Hill was fought on?" I'll give you a hint... it wasn't on Bunker Hill.

The fact is that many Americans carry around these types of iconic myths regarding the era of the American Revolution. Jeff Shaara's fourth novel, "Rise to Rebellion," the first of two books to cover the period of the American Revolution, dispels many of these myths.

Spanning six and a half years, beginning with the Boston Massacre on March 5th, 1770 and ending with the signing of the Declaration of Independence on August 2nd, 1776, Mr. Shaara follows the lives such noted historical personalities as Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, John and Abigail Adams, George Washington, Thomas Gage, Thomas Hutchinson, John Dickinson, Thomas Paine and John Hancock as they struggle to further their causes, both for and against, the independence of the American colonies from the rule of the British crown.

Once again, using his father, Michael Shaara's, tried and true method of multiple view points we view events such as the Boston Tea Party, The Battles of Lexington & Concord, and the Battle of Bunker Hill through the eyes of the characters who participated in the actual historical events. The genius of the Shaara formula lies not only within the shifting viewpoints but in the balanced approach to the material, not only concentrating on the American point of view, but also that of the British. He also shows the military struggle between the two sides and the political and diplomatic struggles of both sides as well - most notably following Benjamin Franklin as he navigates the stormy political seas of the British Parliament and the royal court of King George III. To balance military, political, diplomatic and social history is a difficult task and yet Shaara has succeeded masterfully at it.

However the one drawback of "Rise to Rebellion," and one that I fear Jeff Shaara will never break free of, is that of the formulaic structure of the book itself. Alas it is the alternating, multiple viewpoint structure that he inherited from his father, Michael Shaara, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning, The Killer Angels. Though it works well to provide a well balanced view of the contrasting sides, it impedes the author from trying a more literary approach to his story telling.

Mr. Shaara's novel is a sweeping, yet balanced, panorama of the people and events which gave birth to the United States of America and is worthy of its place on the bookshelf of American historical fiction

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