When the Richmond Theater fire took place on December 26, 1811, it was an event that caused the worst loss of life the United States had ever experienced. This historical novel recounts this tragedy through the lives of four very different characters. Sally Henry Campbell is a young widow whose father was Patrick "Give me liberty or give me death!" Henry. She demonstrates bravery during the fire as many of the high society men run for their lives bypassing the women. Teenage Jack Gibson, who is working as a stagehand, becomes unwillingly involved in a coverup by the theater company as to what caused the fire. Gilbert Hunt, a skilled and literate slave who works as a blacksmith, rushes to the scene of the fire and saves a group of women. His niece Cecily Patterson is also a slave and has been horribly abused her whole life. Assumed dead in the fire, could her escape become her ticket to freedom?
Having enjoyed author Rachel Beanland's debut Florence Adler Swims Forever, I was very excited to read The House Is on Fire and it did not disappoint. This well-researched book combines real-life people and some fictionalized ones to tell a compelling story that gives a good sense of life in Virginia during this period including the malevolence of slavery and the inferior treatment of women. A sign of good historical fiction is the desire, after reading, to learn more. This book will have you googling and googling.
Many thanks to Simon & Schuster for the advance.
Rated 4.25 out of 5 stars.
Publication Date: April 4, 2023.
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