Friday, April 21, 2023

81. The House Is On Fire

The House Is On Fire. Rachel Beanland. 2023. 384 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Sally Campbell's shoes are fashionable but extremely flimsy. She ordered them from Curtis Fairchild's specifically for Richmond's winter season, but now she feels like a fool for thinking she could get away with wearing them on the half-mile walk from her brother-in-law's house to the theater.

Premise/plot: Historical fiction set in Richmond, Virginia, in December 1811. This historical novel based on a true historical event--the 1811 Richmond Theater fire--and features some historical figures. It has four alternating narrators: Sally Campbell (the daughter of Patrick Henry and widow of Robert Campbell); Gilbert Hunt, an enslaved man who rescued dozens of women from the fire by catching them (they were being tossed/thrown out of a third-story window); Cecily, a slave of the Price family (whom is being sexually assaulted by her own half-brother Elliott Price); and Jack Gibson, a young stagehand just getting into show business. 

The theater fire occurred on December 26, 1811. The book chronicles the immediate aftermath from these four perspectives.

My thoughts: I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this one. Is it perfectly perfect? Probably not. Did I find it incredibly intense and super-compelling? YES. A million times yes. It was torture to keep reading. It was torture to stop. I'll try to explain. This book NEEDED the freezer. The part about the fire itself was terrifying and scary. SO horrifying. I had to know what happened but I was worried about what might happen. The aftermath was perhaps a little less intense, but it was fascinating as well. Cecily and Gilbert's story stayed INTENSE. 

I loved all four narrators. All the characters were well written. Even the ones I didn't really "like" all that much. I would definitely recommend this one.


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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