OLIVER WISWELL by Kenneth Roberts
Kirkus Star

OLIVER WISWELL

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KIRKUS REVIEW

No book since The Grapes of Wrath has been given three stars by this reporter. If a fourth star could be given, I think it might go to Kenneth Roberts' new book. A superb love story -- an extraordinary piece of characterization -- and a unique background, handled with Roberts' masterful technique. The question is, are we grown up enough as a nation, to ""take it""? For here is the first, so far as I know, full-bodied story of the American Revolution from the side of the Loyalists. There have been two excellent historical novels presenting the war as seen by soldiers from overseas; one of these, Sergeant Lamb's America by Robert Graves (see page 416) is coming November first. But here we see the story of a Civil War, when we have accustomed ourselves to think of the Colonies as putting up virtually a united front to England. We see in many parts of the country, a majority of the people, and everywhere a majority of the upper classes and the intelligentsia of their day, determined on finding a way out without bloodshed, and paying the price in being made victims of lawless mobs, incendiaries, pillagers, sadists of the worst type, thrust from their homes, tarred and feathered, tortured and often killed -- all because they demanded their right to independence of belief in the face of a new kind of tyranny. Oliver Wiswell was a Yale undergraduate, who came home on the eve of his father's victimization -- and who tells his story. The scene is Massachusetts; Boston provides shelter briefly; then the high seas and Halifax, if shelter it could be called under British ineptness and red tape and inelasticity and stupidity. This is no paean of praise for either side. He is extraordinarily objective, standing firm for an ideal, for a right, seeing the abysmal stupidity of both sides, but holding fast, fighting when need arose, for what the Loyalists believed in. The canvas is a big one. We follow the hero to England, to France, back to America. We see many of the war's battles from the other side. And we share with the Loyalists, the relief when it is over and they have found new chance for life and liberty among those of their own belief, in far-off New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. I could quote,endlessly, passages that give the book an incredible timeliness. But I'll leave it to you -- and you -- and you. Don't miss it. This is THE book of the year -- the book that gives us a symbol of the ideals which were forged in the crucible and came out a great nation. Roberts has told great stories; he has contributed as much as any and more than most, to our American background. This is his best book.

Pub Date: Nov. 22nd, 1940
ISBN: 1153523337
Publisher: Doubleday, Doran