Friday, September 13, 2013

Shadowbrook - Beverly Swerling

I've done it again - fallen done the rabbit hole of good historical fiction ! This time Beverly Swerling takes me deep into the frontier of colonial America from the Hudson Valley to the Ohio frontier, from the shores of Nova Scotia to the slave markets on Wall Street in New York City. All these scenes set the stage for the French and Indian War, in which Britain and France duked it out over the 'land rights' to North America and the Native Peoples played one side against the other in a last ditch attempt to save their own cultures.

Beverly Swerling writes an excellent book. Her research is excellent and her use of French and Native American language makes this book even more 'authentic'. The French and Indian War was such a complicated and richly woven period of intrigue. Not only was there great rivalry between European powers, but the native tribes were deep in competition for pushing tribal agendas on inter-tribal governance, territory disputes, policies on living with the European interlopers, and settling old scores with each other. To boot, the Catholic church had a toehold in the frontier lands because of the on-going attempts to convert the native peoples to Catholicism.  Swerling manages to build a rich cast of characters who take the reader in and out of all these various social and political scenes. In the process, she builds a story that places one smack dab in the middle of a turbulent and dangerous period of colonial history ... now, THAT'S my kind of book!

Central characters are a young Catholic woman bound for the Poor Sisters of St Clare's nunnery in Quebec. Nicole is torn between her attraction to young Quentin Hale, a legendary backwoodsman and her religious promise to give herself to Christ by taking her vows with the Poor Sisters. Hale's adopted brother Cormac Shea is a man who lives between two worlds. His mother is a native Potawatomi and his father is a colonial. She comes to the Hale Grant's estate, Shadowbook when Cormac is young and lives as Ephraim Hale's mistress. Shadowbrook sits in the vicinity of Lake George and the southern portion of the Adirondack Mountains, deep in the conflicted region where the French and Indian War would play out. Cormac and Quentin become 'brothers' over the years of growing up in these forests and travelling between the white colonial's world and the world of the native tribes. It is through their eyes that the story develops. Of course, Swerling has many other well-developed characters who come in and out of Cormac and Quentin's lives; they help build this complex tale. We always care deeply, though, how these two will weather the increasingly dangerous and bloody conflict that soon ignites the frontier between the French and British powers. What a read ...

I can hardly wait to see what I can find by this novelist after I finish a few other books on my 'to be read' list!

1 comment:

  1. Isn't "Swerling" a wonderful name for an author of such a melding of stories? Not my favorite time in history, though a skilled author could make me change my mind. Sounds intriguing...