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Book Review - The Whiskey Rebels: A Novel by David Liss

Category Book Review David Liss The Whiskey Rebels: A Novel
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I had a chance to get a review copy of The Whiskey Rebels by David Liss via Amazon Vine, but I decided against it as there were some other choices that I liked better.  But after hearing good things about the book, I picked it up at the library.  What I found was a rich story set in 1792, during the early days of America's independence from England.

Ethan Saunders is living a disgraced life in Philadelphia.  He and his partner, Richard Fleet, were spies for the American side, but a raid on their premises turned up documents that were being routed to the British.  Neither man was hanged for treason, but both had their life destroyed.  Saunders lost his job, his self-respect, and the woman to whom he was going to get married, Cynthia Fleet.  Petty crime allows him to survive, but there's a number of people who would like to see him dead.  When a mysterious person shows up in an alley to prevent Saunder's death at the hands of a man whose wife he seduced, Saunders is drawn into a conspiracy that threatens to destroy the financial system of the young nation.  It also forces him to question everything that's happened since his spying accusation, as he might have another chance to draw Cynthia back into his life if he understands what is really going on.

The story also has a second plot, one that involves a woman by the name of Joan Maycott.  Her story starts ten years earlier, as a precocious young woman who isn't afraid to pursue something that she wants.  She catches the eye of a young man who was injured in the war, and together they start a new life as husband and wife, running a small carpentry shop while she works on what she thinks will be the first American novel.  They are approached by a landowner who offers to trade them land on the western border of Pennsylvania for their war debt that the state may never pay on.  This new "fruitful" land turns out to be untamed wilderness not far from Pittsburgh.  Even worse, the rights to the land still belong to a powerful person in Pittsburgh, and he can have them tossed from their plot for nearly any reason unless Maycott allows herself to be "entertained" by him.  She refuses to give in, and in time they are able to clear the land and develop strong friendships with the neighboring settlers, all of whom are in the same predicament.  Her husband figures out that whiskey is the real form of money in this area, as nothing can be exported for cash.  The troubles escalate when the new government decides to tax whiskey, even though the whiskey makers there have no cash from their efforts.  Rather than give up their livelihood, they decide to fight back.  Hence, the whiskey rebellion...

These two plotlines start out completely separate, separated by 10 years.  While Saunders is going through day to day life with his investigation, Maycott's story is racing forward in months and years, bringing her closer to the current day, where her purposes and Saunders' business merge to become a common struggle to figure out who really controls the financial purse strings of America, and whether the greed of a small group of people can destroy all that the American Revolution fought for.  I found myself drawn to most all the characters, and enjoyed their gritty attitude that fought on when surrender would have been so much easier.  It also gave me a better appreciation for the fact that regardless of how much time passes, the intent and greed of man remains a constant.  The examples of today's society aren't anything new.  Men have been lusting over power and money forever...

I enjoyed The Whiskey Rebels, and it was nice that the size of the book meant I wouldn't finish it in a day or two.  Given the quality of this book, I'll probably go back and pick up some of Liss's other historical novels.

Comments

Gravatar Image1 - Starbucked was an excellent read.

Nice site!

A

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Gravatar Image2 - Tom - checked on line for other books and realized I had read his book on the coffee trade in Amsterdam. Good read.

Gravatar Image3 - That sounds like a good one. With all the "modern" espionage books out now it is refreshing to see that one of the 3 oldest professions was being practiced so enthusiastically in our formative years...Skip

Gravatar Image4 - Tom - about half way thru the Whiskey and like Maker's Mark, very enjoyable. Enjoying Leonida's role in this as well.

Angela - was referring to this book:
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Have a Merry Christmas!

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