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Carpe Librum

Bookish conversation with author Samantha Wilcoxson.


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Historical Novel Society

Fields of the Fatherless by Elaine Cooper

Fields of the Fatherless - Elaine Marie Cooper

This novel tells the story of the Battle of Menotomy in 1775 through the eyes of 18 year old Betsy Russell. Her father, Jason Russell was one of the men involved in the bloody but little known battle between colonial minutemen and British regulars. Written for younger readers, Betsy's point of view provides a useful example of how events are often more complex than we believe and few wars can be broken down into good versus evil.


I enjoyed the way the author utilized true events to demonstrate Betsy's awakening to the idea that British soldiers, those she hated for their massacre of good men she knew, were not all the cruel barbarians that she assumed them to be. She is able to find mercy and forgiveness through an unexpected connection with a wounded redcoat, who she only assists most reluctantly. 


The story takes off slowly and emphasizes somewhat too much Betsy's supposed frustration with her place in events due to being female. This is part of the story that is not backed up by historical evidence, but many writers of historical fiction like to assume that women of different times were frustrated by their lot in life. Certainly some were, just as some continue to be today, but I do not like the assumption that most women wished for more than what was socially acceptable for them. Too much of Betsy's thoughts were given when they could already be inferred by the action and dialog. Maybe this was in the interest of younger readers, but it seemed unnecessary and condescending. 


Once the battle begins and we follow the characters through the aftermath, the story improves and captured my interest much more than previously. I appreciated that this novel was written to highlight an event in US history that is not given the attention of other battles taking place around the same time. It is a novel that I would recommend for middle school level readers with an interest in history.