Friday, March 21, 2014

French & Indian War Epic

Read for the War Challenge with a Twist 2014 at War Through the Generations

Shadowbrook: A Novel of Love, War, and the Birth of America – Beverly Swerling

The British call The French and Indian War (1754 - 1763) The Seven Years’ War. Winston Churchill designated it as the first world-wide war because hostilities broke out from Canada to the Caribbean, from India to the Philippines. Most American historians have tended to see the conflict as a mere prelude to the American Revolution and emphasized it as the war in which young George Washington gained his knowledge, skills, and abilities in things military.

Beverly Swerling addresses this neglect. In this readable historical novel Swerling chronicles the life and times of Cormac Shea and Quentin Hale, half-brothers who have been brought up among Indians. Cormac is a “bridge person” assigned by his band to serve a mediator between the Indian and European world. Cormac’s dream is to settle Indians peacefully in what is now Canada, leaving the Europeans in what is now the US. Also in the story is Nicole Crane, a young Frenchwoman with an English father. Fighting against her romantic interest in Quentin Hale, she enters the Monastery of the Poor Clares in Quebec. These three characters provide the points of view for their particular group.

This story of loyalty, betrayal, love , hope, and war is told chronologically , in a variety of settings that border on confusing. Indian names a mile long add to the bewilderment. But persevering readers will be rewarded with a striking story.
The only background I had for this novel was the short history of the war by Fred Anderson but I thought that Swerling did a fine job balancing the history with the story. She emphasizes the importance of the Indians and the French in the conflict. For example, Swerling underlines how the British Wolfe totally failed to understand how to win Indian alliances. He paid for this lack of respect with his life.

Swerling’s prose is clear and comprehensible. I’m mildly impatient with the stock characters and themes and the inevitable love story in family saga and plantation stories. But these sections never felt too long until we got back with Indians trying to figure out how to deal with Europeans and fighting a war with no mercy.

1 comment:

  1. The only books my library had on this war were all about young women being kidnapped from their pioneering families by Indians and the war was mostly in the background. This one sounds much more like what I was looking for.