Women of the American Revolution is a book it would never have occurred to me to pick up if I’d not heard of it through the Historical Writers Forum on Facebook. The author, Samantha Wilcoxson, mentioned that it had just come out on audiobook.
I like audiobook as it adds to the amount of time I can spend reading for enjoyment. I can listen while out for a walk, driving to the supermarket or doing housework. I’m often prepared to try something different when it’s an audiobook and occasionally, as in this case, I discover a real gem.
My lack of knowledge about the American Revolution is nothing short of embarrassing. I could give you a cautious summary of the political situation in England which led to it but the closest I’ve come to knowing anything more about it when when I read the Outlander series a few years back and I’ve given up on that now. I can remember watching the Patriot many years ago but I wouldn’t expect to get any actual history from that and it wasn’t even a good film.
It has frequently occurred to me that I should learn more, especially as I have some ideas about writing the war of 1812 later on and could do with some background. This book felt like a good start. I began listening to it casually while cleaning the bathroom and ended up doing very little else until I got to the end. The house is surprisingly clean and the book was great.
Samantha Wilcoxson has chosen to explore the years of the American Revolution through the eyes of the women involved. Using their letters, diaries and a variety of secondary sources, she devotes each chapter to a different woman and examines the effects of war on their daily lives.
When writing about the women of past eras, the source material is often far less than is available for men. Women were probably given little choice in the side they took as it was assumed they would share their menfolk’s loyalties. They experienced hardship and tragedy without being able to control the course of events. They lost husbands and children and other family members. They suffered and grieved.
All these aspects of eighteenth century social history are fully explored in this book, but there is a lot more besides. Samantha Wilcoxson’s straightforward writing style makes the book an enjoyable read and the narrator makes a good job of the audiobook. The author is also a popular writer of historical fiction which may explain the excellent pace and narrative style. I loved her genuine warmth for her subjects. The personality of each woman steps out of the pages in all their flawed humanity.
The author also handles the historiography of the period very well. She shows no particular bias for women on either side of the conflict and she is particularly good at weighing up some of the myths of the era, looking at how much is likely to be true and at why and how such stories developed.
I came away from this book with a genuine enthusiasm to learn more about this period and with a desire to read more of Samantha Wilcoxson’s books. She is a lovely writer with the ability to make her subjects feel like real people, even within the constraints of a single chapter. I’d like to see what she can do when she has a whole book to play with.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable book and highly recommended.