Saturday, January 7, 2012

4 Stars for George In London

George In London
Author: Tim Queeney (http://www.timqueeney.com/ )
Genre: Satirical Counter-factual Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 Stars

George In London is a fun 18th-century historical buddy-trip adventure featuring an unlikely pair of protagonists: a future president and an African-American sailor.

Summary:

History records that George Washington only briefly left America on a trip to Barbados, but the discovery of a hidden manuscript reveals a surprising truth: the future president and slave-holder had his life saved by a freeman African-American master mariner, Darius Attucks. Together, the two men find unexpected adventure in London.

Review:


The Founding Fathers have an almost sacred status in American history. In constantly looking to the past, the American people often forget that these men were mere mortals with their own quirks and foibles. Some were even young men who made more than their share of mistakes.


George In London posits a bit of counter-factual history, or a the author describes it "secret history", where a 19-year-old George Washington, after having his life saved by a freeman African-American sailor named Darius Attucks, ends up having a series of misadventures in London and its environs. Rather than the stolid future general and president, this George Washington is still an impetuous young man still in search of his own fortune. 


Despite the presence of George Washington, this novel, which is presented as the manuscript of Darius Attucks, is less a serious attempt at alternative history and more a satirical examination of the foibles of mid-18th century London society. George, or "Geo" as Darius calls him in the book, and Darius run into a wide variety of fictional and actual historical personages reflective of many different socio-political aspects of the society of that time. Despite the density of interesting historical encounters, the story never loses a wry sense of humor. Even if one subtracts the amusing historical encounters, the central plot still presents a fun little central adventure, complete with a bit of mystery and a bit of romance.


Geo and Darius are both well-developed as likable and interesting characters. As the book is written in the voice of Darius, his thoughts, feelings, and personality permeate the narrative bringing him to life and helping him stand out despite being paired with such an important figure in American history. His various observations and comments do a lot to infuse humor into the book. Darius, despite perhaps being more skilled in many ways than Geo, is still a man whose ambitions and self-evaluation occasionally exceed reality. In this way, he's a perfect partner for the young George Washington.

The racial dynamic of the two main characters allows some exploration of slavery, that bugbear of early American history, especially given the presence of Darius, an educated and skilled freeman. Although I'm rather dubious that this book presents a particularly realistic portrayal of how a young George Washington may have reacted in such circumstances, I had no problem accepting "Geo" in the context of the story.


While one probably shouldn't read George In London as a history lesson, it's still a tremendous bit of fun and a nice take on counter-factual and/or secret historical fiction.

4 Stars

George In London is available at these vendors:

8 comments:

  1. I had been debating whether to try this out. While I have a fondness for alternatve history, I want it strongly grounded in the real thing and found the cover of this off-putting. But your review convinced me to take a closer look.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for reconsidering, J.R.!

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    2. Thanks for reconsidering, J.R.

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    3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  2. I love these kind of books. Kind of an alternate history.

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    Replies
    1. Cool. I hope you give it a try, Ciara!

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  3. Hi, Cindy, thanks for stopping by my blog and following me.

    ReplyDelete

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