Monday, March 29, 2010

Literary Thoughts -- The Revolutionary Paul Revere

Spending nearly three weeks annually in Concord, MA, I get to hear the ongoing disagreement between Concord and Lexington about the first skirmish of the American War for Independence. Well known is the story, thanks to Henry Longfellow, of the "midnight ride of Paul Revere", but little else is presented in classrooms about this remarkable fellow. So, a great deal of enthusiasm prefaced reading Joel Miller's The Revolutionary Paul Revere (Thomas Nelson publisher).

Miller's research into Revere's life is generally point on. While he seems to take a majority of the information from a singler biographer, he is a storyteller and manages to bring Revere's character to life. Starting with an examination of Revere's father's immigration to the birth of Revere's 16 children, Miller provides a comprehensive overview of the many aspects of the engraver, silversmith, and patriot. Surely, Revere's personal disappointment that he was uncommissioned in the Continental Army is little known and demonstrates what a man of honor he was to remain with the Army in whatever capacity he felt useful. Miller certainly shows the commitment Revere had to the American cause as well as the personal sacrifice of Revere and his family. Here is a man who was loyal, strong, compassionate, and tender.

Courier, engraver, spy, ship captain and foot soldier are just a sampling of the many responsibilities Revere willingly and competently held before, during, and after the War for Independence. He confidently learned trades outside that of silversmith to serve his country -- cannon forger and saltpeter producer, for example. The richness of his creative and personal life give testament to a man who lived his life, as Tennyson wrote of Ulysess, "to the lees." His devotion to his first and second wives as well as the care he took in providing for his family and extended family demonstrates his love to them as well.

While the overall story of Revere is rich and fascinating, Miller's biography often trivalises events simply because the word choice is trite and unsuited to this subject. Addressing Revere by his first name, calling his parents "mom" and "dad" as well as the occasional use of current jargon (referring to Revere's daughter Sarah's birth eight months after his marriage to her mother as "being just inside the margin of error" seems unnecessary, for example). The biography is riddled with a bevy of sentence fragments for effect, but they rapidly lose any effect because of the overwhelming number. Truly. Like the proofreader goofed.

While the chapter titles are intriguing, Miller (or his editor) opted to utilize an 18th century technique of introducing chapters which seems awkward and detracts from the richness of each. The story is compelling enough to move the reader along; there is no need to interrupt the follow with two or three sentence "teasers."

The biography is interesting and informative. The reading is easy enough for most high schoolers through adults. In fact, it seems that high schoolers would benefit from the richness of the biography if nothing more than to deepen their appreciation and knowledge of what a "regular guy" and not an aristocrat committed to gain personal freedom and choice.

I give The Revolutionary Paul Revere four bees out of five for content and interest.

4 comments:

  1. ALL RIGHT!!
    I LOVE book reviews
    and better yet
    HISTORY!
    It was my favorite subject all through school.
    My best time in childhood (right behind it was living in Hawaii...rather at Waikiki Beach, when I was 5!) was when we lived in Virginia Beach and went to civil war sites and spent an enormous amount of time at Williamsburg...back in, oh...1970-71 or there abouts! My Grandpa loved to go on drives in his green Ford Torino and he and I were inseperable!

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  2. You lived in Hawaii??? How cool is that??

    I lived in VA Beach in 1976 when I was first married and, as you, so enjoyed the trips to the "historical" sites! We'd go to Williamsburg very often, drink hot tea, and eat gingerbread from the old oven.

    When I was a child the only vacations we took were historical. Of course, we didn't know at the time it was because they were free. Mother would pack the Plaid cooler (remember those anyone??) and off we'd go! We ate tons of bologna and cheese sandwiches, Fritoes, and Kool-aid. Maybe this is why I am a vegetarian? LOL

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  3. Well I completely trust you and your assessment of a book ;-) xoxoxo Clarice

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  4. I learned a lot from your post - about this book and Paul Revere as well as about how to write an excellent review!!

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Thanks for dropping in on the farm today! I enjoy your comments!

Warmly,

Matty