Book Review: Children of Liberty

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Author: Paullina Simons
ISBN: 978-0-0072-4157-6
RRP: $29.99

Paullina Simons takes us on a historical journey to the dawn of the 20th Century in Boston for the prequel to The Bronze Horseman Trilogy.

Children of Liberty is the first Paullina Simons novel I have read, making it my introduction to the characters as well as to her writing style. I wouldn’t have thought this would really make a difference being as how this is a prequel volume as opposed to a sequel but I have been advised that I would have been better off reading The Bronze Horseman trilogy first.

Boston at the turn of the century in a time of revolution is the setting for this story of two worlds colliding in a slow combusting conflagration. Set on a backdrop of industrial revolution, anarchy and changing roles in society we have an intense love story destined to cause great pain and great happiness.

Gina Attaviano and her family immigrate to America in accordance with the wishes of her father. The family consists of 14 year old Gina, her older brother and her mother who set down in Boston on their way through to Lawrence. On leaving the boat they are met by two young men, Ben Shaw and Harry Barrington, who meet immigrants and give them shelter in the Barrington apartments until they can find work and get settled. The two young men are in their early 20’s and Ben is quite taken by the Italian beauty, unperturbed by her age though visibly trying to distance himself. Salvo, Gina’s brother recognises the intent in the young men and does his best to protect the innocence of his young sister.

The story follows the path of both the Attaviano’s in Lawrence and Harry and Ben in Boston. Gina is smitten and though the signs were there early I was still taken by surprise. The minute I realised the extent of the triangular entanglement I envisioned heartache but there was much more of that than ever I imagined.

children of liberty

Gina is very young but she is strong willed and knows her own mind, and is more calculating than I expected. She has a way of engineering circumstances to create the opportunities she most desires and in the process, in the short term, makes positive life changes for her family. She is not afraid of hard work and dedicating herself entirely to her long term goals. Admirable traits in some ways, but still disheartening to see her so devious.

Ben is passionate but his passion often blows out as quickly as it flared so even his best friend Harry believes, early on, that his ardour for Gina will blow over rapidly as will his passion for building a canal in Panama to bring bananas to the world. A canal in Panama, why did this haunt me throughout – ahh, that must be about the time the Panama Canal was built.

Harry is from an old Bostonian family, never wanting for anything and always reading. He comes from old money and has been brought up with the freedom to do what he wishes and the expectation that he will make the appropriate and acceptable choices.  We meet him already involved in a comfortable long term relationship with an acceptable match, though a pairing without passion where he is dragging his feet at every turn but still acting as is expected of him.

I found that this story didn’t grip me and at times it really frustrated me. I understand familial pressure and doing what’s expected for the good of the family but there comes a point where that goes beyond counter productive and to continue is an extreme betrayal. Yes, in the beginning it is to be understood, if not excused, but surely we can not be expected to sympathise when this continues right up to toeing the line of no return.

For me, Children of Liberty dragged. At times I felt it got bogged down a little too much in the revolution and the anarchists. Yes, that time and those attitudes are an integral part of this story and much would have been lost without its addition but there were times it felt a little like overkill and there were passages that I got lost in, and not in the good way, because I couldn’t keep it all straight in my head. There was quiet conversation interspersed in the speakers of anarchist meetings and I found it difficult to keep it straight.

Fans of Paullina Simons work and the characters that move on from this volume into The Bronze Horseman Trilogy will probably quite enjoy this book, and I am one who loves to see the beginnings of a story so perhaps I would gain a greater understanding and appreciation if I were to go on and read the trilogy.

A story that I enjoyed, for the most part, if not always in the execution but one I found dragged a little more than I would have liked. It is an interesting look at a time in history that changed the world.

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