he early work of novelist Jeff Shaara was inevitably compared to that of his father, Michael Shaara, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning historical novel The Killer Angels. With his first two novels, Gods and Generals and The Last Full Measure, Jeff Shaara completed the Civil War trilogy his father had begun. The younger Shaara went on to write a best-selling novel of the Mexican-American War (Gone for Soldiers) and in his latest work, he shifts his focus to the American Revolution.

Shaara says his new book is the first of a two-part saga exploring the full sweep of the conflict that gave birth to this republic and routed the British after a brief but bloody war. Again choosing to go inside the minds of the principal players, he selects four of the most powerful personalities of the era: John Adams, Ben Franklin, George Washington and General Thomas Gage, the commander-in-chief of British forces.

Opening with a brief biography on each of the essential characters, Shaara leads us through the fast-moving American uprising that first protested, then sought to overthrow English colonial rule. Shaara uses the characters of Adams, Gage and Franklin to create a behind-the-scenes feel for the maneuvers on both sides.

The book succeeds in its effort to show how a real revolution is mounted, with men and women of varying personalities struggling to form a new nation under the penalty of reprisal and death. In much historical fiction of this period, the life of British society among the American colonials is shortchanged, but not here. Shaara provides a fascinating glimpse of the British ruling class in all its stiff, autocratic complexity. Some of the book's finest scenes come when his supporting characters are allowed their time on the page, including such familiar names as Sam Adams, Lord Hillsborough, John Hancock, Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson, Tom Paine and William Pitt.

Not content with a panoramic view, Shaara also explores how deeply the pressures of revolt cut into the social fabric of the day, splitting families and severing friendships.

Sweeping and turbulent, Rise to Rebellion rarely fails to satisfy the reader who appreciates historical fiction done with style, accuracy, sensitivity and analytical skill. If there were questions about whether Shaara would live up to his literary pedigree, this should be the book to finally silence the doubters.

 

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