This I have to read

From the Briefly Noted section of the New Yorker:

Johnny One-Eye, by Jerome Charyn (Norton, $25.95). Set on Manhattan Island during the Revolutionary War, this leisurely picaresque concerns the adventures of an orphan reared in a brothel who loses an eye when he follows Benedict Arnold into battle. Johnny is a man of both nations; he joins up with Arnold as a secret agent for the British, but his admiration for him [Arnold] is genuine. His feelings are further complicated by his discovery that George Washington–here gentle, intelligent, and tortured by love for the brothel’s madam–may be his father, but ultimately his loyalty lies with his true love, an octoroon prostitute named Clara. Charyn skillfully breathes life into historical icons like Arnold, Washington, and Alexander Hamilton, and constructs a careful plot of shifting alliances, roving spies, and double-dealing.

I’ve long searched for a good historical novel of the American Revolution, but aside from Esther Forbes’ classic Johnny Tremaine and Nelson’s excellent Hornblower-esque novels of the Revolution at sea, I’ve never found something I could really embrace. Perhaps this will be the one?


5 thoughts on “

  1. Though it’s been many years since I re-read it, I’m still fond of the Kenneth Roberts trilogy, Arundel, Rabble in Arms, and Oliver Wiswell (especially the last, told from the perspective of an American Loyalist). Benedict Arnold is a central figure in the series. I’m with you, though–nothing beats Hornblower.

  2. I’ll definitely check out Redcoats!Sara, thanks for reminding me about the Kenneth Roberts novels. Arundel was once one of my favorites! I should reread it and see if I still enjoy it.

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