A great work of historical fiction by Bernard Conwell. This book details the Penobscot Expedition of 1779 launched by Massachusetts to "captivate, kill, or destroy" the force of British soldiers who had landed and built a fort in Majabigwaduce (now called Castine, Maine).
This book does a great job of capturing that attitudes of soldiers fighting on both sides of the revolutionary war, and tells the story of a military expedition taken on by Massachusetts.
As a native of Boston I am shocked that I had never heard of this tale before now, I am profoundly happy to have read this book, and plan to read many more of Mr. Cornwell's splendidly written books.
First of all, I feel compelled to address those reviewers who feel that the author has fabricated some fanciful fiction, where the glorious British bested the Colonial upstarts at every turn, and suggest they might want to spend some time reading up on the period, and not just our own history or this battle, but also the broader history of the Seven Years War/French-Indian War, French Revolution and Napoleonic era.
If Bernard Cornwell shows any bias in his writings, it's towards his main characters, and often not even then. The only bias he consistently holds is to the facts surrounding the history behind the story. He takes liberties where necessary to drive the story, but works very hard to mold the story to the facts of events in question, not the other way around. The incident in this story actually happened largely as Cornwell has portrayed it. The US Navy, with the exception of John Paul Jones, didn't really come into its own until after the Revolution and didn't become the "scourge of the Royal Navy" until the War of 1812. At this point in our history, it was of little consequence and, as depicted in this book, couldn't compete for men and supplies with their privateer brethren. We formed our army with many misgivings about the idea of having a standing army. It was made up mostly of local militias, with little broad cohesion on a mass scale (the political bickering and communication problems inherent in this model are also featured in the story). We certainly won some major victories with this rag tag civilian army, but it was not the professional army that the Royal Army was. While we ultimately succeeded in winning independence, it wasn't because we clobbered the Brits in every battle on land and sea. We lost a few along the way as well.
I appreciated Mr. Bowerman's Scottish accent for the Scottish characters. Not overly thick, but genuine. His American accent wasn't bad either, though it was a inadvertently amusing at times and therefore a bit distracting. Overall, I really had no problem with the narration, though perhaps a different narrator might have breathed more life into the story? I dunno. It is what it is, and I've certainly heard a lot worse.
I don't know about a follow-up, as it's a book about a specific event, and not any one or two of the characters. It's not really that kind of a book. The characters, while all real people, who went on to do many other things during the Revolution and in their lives, were all actors in these events, and who they were and what they did came together to drive the outcome of the events in the story. None were really portrayed as heroes and villains, in the traditional sense. They were there, and the decisions they made, or failed to make shaped the outcome. Any follow-up would really just be another book about an event from the Revolution, which may, or may not feature one, three or all of the main persons featured in this book.
I would certainly go see it if it were made into a movie, though. The subject is interesting, and with the right cast and director, it might even make a better movie than it did a book. In fact, I think it would make a better movie.
I think fans of Cornwell should probably try it, if only to have read (or listened to) it. It is in keeping with his tradition of historical detail and accuracy, and so provides a good telling of this event. The characters aren't uninteresting, or poorly drawn, they just aren't...."true to life", like his fictional characters are. I think he fell short in this way, and characters are perhaps the most important part of a work of historical fiction.
I'll close by saying that one of the things I have always enjoyed about Bernard Cornwell, is his ability to paint an exciting, detailed and organic picture of a battle, including the events leading up to and following the event itself. His portrayal of the Battle of Assaye, in Sharpe's Triumph is one of my favorite literary interpretations of a battle. Setting aside the fictional Sharpe's involvement, one comes away with a solid understanding of the events.
Cornwell does his research.
In this regard, if nothing else, I feel Cornwell remained true to form.
Salient historical excerpts punctuate this lightly fictionalized narrative of an historic event in the American Revolution of which I, an American, had never heard. Few, if any, of the named characters were fictional, and at least one historical national hero stands to have his image tarnished a bit from this account. the story begs a sequel, especially the exciting events in store for one major character, according to his biography. My only real complaint would be that the vocal narrator may have mispronounced some military terms - in particular, "ensign", which he reads to rhyme with alpine. I like, on the other hand, the use of a British actor attempting New England accents to approximate where the relatively new American accent stood during the time period.
An esteemed author journeyed into 18th century America, from great tales in England's middle ages.... I'll say his research into commands to soldiers of the line was mostly accurate... but his approach to historical fiction in the Western Hemisphere will loose him atleast one reader who "used to" follow his works...... sure to fit a UK audience.
Informative, entertaining, and riveting.
This was a different approach for Mr. Cornwell, usually he creates a true antagonist for his books. In the Fort plot and character development was more comparable to Michael Shaara or David McCullough. I could not loathe the antagonists.
Nice sounding voice, imaginative accents.
I listened to this book for hours at a time.
If you like Mr. Cornwell's books you will find it different from many of his other works but before this book I knew very little of this campaign. I had trouble putting it down.
No. I have gotten all I intended to get from it.
It helped me learn about a little known event in American history through the medium of an entertaining story.
The discussion between Generals MacLean and Wadsworth. MacLean was my favorite character. Saltonstall and Revere were wonderful villains.
Whooops! or Uh-oh!
As a southerner, I am used to stories in which my side looses. Here, the author did a good job of gaining sympathy for both sides. The Wikipedia account of the engagement shows Cornwell did not overemphasize the superiority of the British leadership. This was a very different Cornwell book, but well worth the listen.
I'm not sure if Bernard Cornwell continues to write books, but if he wrote or just produced this one it is a mystery to me what he accomplished. The same militias that fought at Bunker Hill and expelled the Red Coats from Boston turned tail and ran and the same navy that was the scourge of the Royal Navy burned itself up. And, the man who reportedly warned that "The British are comming!" is exposed for a turncoat. Perhaps in his next book King George masterminds the defeat of the Americans and the French and takes up residence at Versailles.