The Widow’s War, Bound, and The Rebellion of Jane Clarke is a trilogy of books set in and around the Cape Cod village of Satucket in the years leading up to the American Revolution. While not a strictly linear story, (they all pretty much stand alone), they definitely belong together, and tell a larger tale.
The first book, The Widow’s War, centers around Lyddie Berry. When her husband of 20 years drowns in a whaling accident, she finds her life altered in ways she hadn’t expected. In the midst of her grief, she is forced to watch as her husband’s property (which includes her home), is turned over to her greedy and obnoxious son-in-law. This is in accordance with the laws of the times – a woman has no property and no social standing without a husband. As her grief turns into rage, she resolves to become independent and get her home back. The legal and personal battle that follows takes it’s toll on her in surprising ways.
Bound is the story of Alice Cole, a young bond slave. The book follows her from early childhood in London and a harrowing sea voyage where her mother and brother die, to the docks of Boston where her father is forced to sell her into bondage for 11 years. She is bought by John Morton, a kindly man who brings her home as a companion to his daughter Nabby. Nabby and Alice grow up together, and when Nabby marries, Alice’s bond is sold to Nabby’s husband. Alice goes along as maidservant. Nabby’s new husband, however, is not what he seems to be. When Alice finds her life endangered, she runs away and stows aboard a ship bound for Satucket. There she meets the Widow Berry and her friend Eben Freeman. They are kind to Alice and take her in. Alice believes that her nightmare is over, until a secret comes to light that could ruin everything for her.
The Rebellion of Jane Clarke centers around the Widow Berry’s step-grandaughter. Jane grows up in privilege as the daughter of one of Satucket’s biggest landowners (the odious son-in-law from the first book). The year is now 1769. When she refuses to marry the man her father chooses for her, Jane is packed off to Boston as punishment. She is sent to care for an elderly aunt, and she finds herself in the middle of a city in turmoil. There are British soldiers bunked across the street, and Jane’s brother is a law clerk for John Adams. She meets and becomes friends with the bookseller (and later Revolutionary hero) Henry Knox. As she takes this all in, and becomes witness to the Boston Massacre, Jane struggles to make sense of it. She also is determined to make up her own mind for the first time in her life.
All three books are very different, but as I said, together they tell a whole story. Each book focuses on one woman and her struggle to take control of her own destiny. Throughout the books, we meet patriots who meet to discuss independence from Britain. Yet the plight of the women and servants among them is not considered important enough for discussion. It is these small, personal struggles that are at the heart of these books, mirroring the bigger, historical struggles As a 21st century woman, I take my freedom for granted. It’s sobering to read about a time, not too long ago, when women had no legal standing. The endings are realistic in the way things are a little open-endednot necessarily “wrapped up”, and you are left to draw your own conclusions from what you’ve learned of the characters personalities.
These are “stand alone” books, but I would only recommend reading The Widow’s War by itself. It helps set up the characters for the next 2 books. I also found Lyddie Berry and Eben Freeman to be my favorite characters. They appear in the last 2 books, but are not the focus.
All in all, I enjoyed these books. The endings are realistic in the way things are not necessarily “wrapped up”, and you are left to draw your own conclusions from what you’ve learned of the characters personalities.If you enjoy reading about the colonial life before the Revolution, I would recommend them.
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