Here I am posting something a bit variant than what has become the spirit of this blog – to showcase the historical research behind, and literary merit of Of Woodbridge and Hedgely. It is indeed a quick, late-night review I posted on Goodreads yesterday, of something I read on Kindle this summer – The Privateersman, by Andrew Wareham. Certainly I would not bother readers with my poor thoughts on a murder-mystery novel; certainly I would not read one in the first place, nor have anything to say about it in the second. However The Privateersman proved to be something after my own heart: A credible survey of the history of the Industrial Revolution – or at least a sliver of such pertaining to the goings-on of the protagonist, as he makes his way to the top of the food chain in America and England, bustling with the details of mid to late 18th century business, and the social constructs revolving around such. Here we are folks:
Having achieved an extensive campaign with Patrick O’Brien’s twenty one book, Aubrey/Maturin canon, rereading several in the set over the years in lieu of starting anything else, so as I may not suffer that which, in comparison to this literary master, can only be described – as politely as possible, of course – as the dilute offerings of other men, I decided to jump ship and attempt another nautical themed book – this The Privateersman. Here I will incidentally note that though my pen name is Thomas Smyth, in the flesh I am Andrew Thomas, whilst the novel’s protagonist is Thomas Andrews. Perhaps something of a connection was stirred, if but through this coincidence alone; I am nothing the like to Wareham’s character.
It turns out this is not another nautical themed book. There is some swift naval action in the opening chapters, and the author is certainly well researched – much more so than the average wordsmith; however, as O’Brien could fill an entire chapter with an extensive action between two frigates, Mr. Wareham’s approach is as I’ve stated – swift; and not just with naval action: The novel’s prerogative is apparently to accomplish Mr. Andrew’s growth from boy to man. He starts off a lad of sixteen in chapter one, and by the last he is, I believe, in his mid-thirties and has experienced five major settings, existing in both America and England. The book is certainly fast paced; though I must say, not in a detrimental way: Mr. Wareham has the chops to pull it off, which I attribute, again, to his extensive historical knowledge of the period. My finest compliments to him.
Indeed, I was quite partial to the middle chapters of the book which dealt with Mr. Andrews negotiating the Industrial Revolution: coal, cotton, iron manufacturing, the volatility of booms and busts, &c., and the social history nebulous to such. Wareham has us shaking our heads at laissez-faire scenes, like that of whole families – men, women an children – being lowered a hundred feet into a coal mine, by way of a bucket tied to a rope, owning a diameter not much more than that of a human thumb; the place presumably being pumped somewhat dry by a Watt’s steam engine. The notion that such rope occasionally broke with the expected result, though this method of transport was far cheaper than the construction of a set of ladders down a separate shaft for the safety of the desperate folks expected to do the work, and thus was the one that prevailed, was not lost on I, nor probably any other modern reader that has benefited from the previous endeavorings of historical workers’ rights organizations.
At any rate, having spent many a night, week, and year excavating historical details concerning the state of agricultural science, glass and iron manufacturing, boiler and pipe heating of buildings, coal gasification, the mechanics of tithes, natural history, natural philosophy, social customs, &c., that I too would have something credible for my own historical novel, Of Woodbridge and Hedgely, set in 1820, I felt a bit of a kinship with Mr. Wareham, during my reading of his work, though we are decades apart in our respective periods of interest, regarding our two novels. I say read his novel for the comprehensive historical survey he has assembled through the eyes of Mr. Andrews, as he hops about the world of the 18th century. Sure, another reviewer could prattle on about the characters, the examination of race relations during this moment in time, how staunch religious views impacted both business and family relations, and so on, and be perfectly in the right in focusing on these, but I believe I will leave it for another reviewer to indeed accomplish such, and make this my closing thought: 4.5 stars – huzzah, huzzah!
View all my reviews (or lack thereof)