The Rise to Rebellion (2002)

by Jeff Shaara

Following in the footsteps of his father, Michael, Jeff Shaara writes historical novels about the United States. He added two books to Michael’s Pulitzer Prize–winning The Killer Angels to make a Civil War trilogy. He turned next to the Mexican War and then the American Revolution. The Rise to Rebellion is the first of two novels about the latter epoch.

Like his father, Jeff Shaara presents history through its principal characters. Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, George Washington, and British General Thomas Gage are the primary players in 
The Rise to Rebellion, with supporting characters including John’s wife, Abigail; his firebrand cousin, Samuel Adams; and John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, Richard Henry Lee, Joseph Warren, and Paul Revere.

The story begins with the Boston Massacre in March 1770 and continues through the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. It moves from the beleaguered city of Boston to London, where Franklin represents the colonies, to battlefields, to the halls in Philadelphia where the Continental Congress meets and the Declaration of Independence is debated and signed.

Some people do not like historical fiction because of the difficulty of separating fact from fiction. But Shaara stays true to the historical record and does not attempt to embellish characters or events for dramatic effect. Writing in a clear, easy-to-read style, he brings out themes that enhance our understanding of pivotal incidents and opinions. He is especially effective on the theme of identity: Colonists a century and a half removed from the mother country had developed independent identities (of which the English were clueless), but merging their separate identities into united states was not an assured course.

The Glorious Cause, the second volume in Shaara’s Revolutionary saga, features Washington and Franklin again, along with the American general, Nathaniel Greene, and his British counterpart, Charles Cornwallis. It takes the story up to Cornwallis’s surrender in 1781.


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