The Rebellion of Jane Clarke

Like many other 8th grade students in the USA, I read Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes when I was twelve years old. It's the story of a young boy living during colonial times and it developed my interest in early US history and historical fiction set in that time period. Sally Gunning rekindled my love of this setting - taking an in depth and mature perspective on colonial life - with her new novel The Rebellion of Jane Clarke.

Jane Clarke is a young woman from a small town whose father sends her to Boston to care for her feeble aunt. Thrust into the building conflicts between the rowdy Sons of Liberty and the hated British soldiers, Jane's eyes reveal the human aspects of both groups. Famous historical figures enter her life and she sees John Adams as a fair minded lawyer and family man; and Henry Knox, to her, is a bookshop clerk and potential suitor. The action in the novel leads to a climax in which Jane is a witness to the Boston Massacre, and the account told from a personal perspective takes on a much different flair than what history books typically describe.

I really enjoyed The Rebellion of Jane Clarke. Sally Gunning took the events of the USA's history and added a human perspective - effectively bridging a two hundred and forty year gap to make distant occurrences interesting and relevant. At times, Jane came across as a little too modern for her time period, but I appreciated that she was a headstrong and engaging protagonist. Fans of historical fiction, especially those who enjoy a colonial American setting, will definitely want to read this book.

(An advance review copy of this book was provided through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program.  The Rebellion of Jane Clarke is on sale Tuesday, June 1, 2010.)  

So now for a question, for those who enjoy historical fiction - does a love of history cause you to enjoy historical fiction or is it historical fiction that gives you a better appreciation for history?  Or conversely, if you don't like historical fiction does it stem from a dislike of history?

3 Response to "The Rebellion of Jane Clarke"

  1. Greg says:
    May 26, 2010 at 6:49 PM

    I think Devil in the White City was the last historical fiction I read (a few years ago). I've been meaning to read more of them, especially since Devil in the White City was so good.

    For me, what makes an historical fiction so fun is when it feels as though the past has come back to life. I enjoy learning about fascinating tidbits unique to a prior time period. If a great story that still feels relevant today can be told in that time period, then all the better.

    To answer your question, when I think of it in terms of Devil in the White City, I wanted to read that book because I heard it was entertaining. I wasn't expecting to learn much about history. But as I got into the book, I found myself really appreciating the history lesson. So in that regard, I think that book gave me a better appreciation for history.

  2. biblioholic29 says:
    May 27, 2010 at 7:49 AM

    Hmm...good question. For me I think it's more age and maturity that has cultivated my interest in both history and historical fiction. I never minded either when I was younger, but I wouldn't go out of my way for them either.

    I'm wondering if you've ever read any William Martin? I think you'd enjoy his Peter Fallon series, start with Back Bay.

  3. lisa :) says:
    May 28, 2010 at 9:29 PM

    Greg - Good point about the relevant stories. I was never a huge fan of history in school, but the times I most enjoyed it were when I had teachers that taught from a more humanistic side of things. Instead of just memorizing dates and places, I always preferred when we learned about what daily life was like in a certain era.

    I think this is also why sometimes I have issues with historical characters in novels - especially females - that seem too modern for their period. On the one hand, it seems out of place, but on the other hand they're easier to relate to.

    bib - I've definitely gotten more into historical fiction as I've matured as a reader too. I haven't read any William Martin (don't you know how many books are on my TBR right now??!?!?) but I'll have to check him out in the future. *grumble, grumble* ;)

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