3 out of 4 stars
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Certain events in history mark the beginning of a new era. When you examine these events closer, you can see other transitional events that are just as important as what follows. Personally, I had no idea that the whole fiasco in Scotland with "Bonnie Prince Charles" was so connected to the American Revolution on the other side of the ocean so many years later. New Caledonia by William D. McEachern explores these connections and draws lines between between political events on both sides of the ocean.
Fictional character Jamie McEachern was born in Scotland, married a Scottish girl, fought for Bonnie Prince Charlie in the Uprising of 1719, fled the country as a fugitive—leaving his wife and small son behind—and settled in America. Jamie became best friends and business partner with Daniel Morgan (historical character). After settling in Winchester, Virginia, Jamie hoped for his family to join him in the new country. What seemed to be an idyllic situation for the McEachern family, soon took a downturn for the worse.
Jamie received news that his beloved wife would not be joining him in America, as she was brutally raped and murdered when British soldiers came looking for, but didn't find, Jamie. When Jamie originally fled Scotland, he had no idea that he would end up fighting in two more wars. On the heels of the French and Indian War came the American Revolution. Although Jamie intended to stay away from all wars and battles, cruel events took place that provided the right impetus for him to fight for the future of America.
Overall, I felt as though I learned much through this book. The author is very clear as to which characters are fictional or historical. Additionally, he provides intimate snapshots of many decisions that led to major battles and other events. I began the book having no idea that Scots were so important to the founding of America. I was fascinated to see various strings of history woven together into one giant tapestry. However, I did find the transitions from fictional to historical somewhat disjointed. Although the book was purportedly about the emigration of Scots to America and how they created their own community, major sections were devoted to behind the scenes looks at both wars. While all that information was intriguing, it gave an illusion of being two separate books throughout most of the book.
I greatly enjoyed reading about the different characters. I knew nothing of George Washington before he spent the winter at Valley Forge, but now I see a clear path from his youth to his becoming a general in the American army. It was also interesting to read about the other generals and commanders on both sides of the wars. The author spent adequate time developing the various characters, both historical and fictional. I felt that he kept the true characters of historical figures and had them all acting and speaking in character. It was clear that a major amount of research went into this book.
All sensitive topics were carefully dealt with and included little to no graphic details, which I definitely appreciate. However, I am not sure that the book was carefully edited. I found random errors from a wrong word ("barley" instead of "barely") to repeated words and other strange grammatical issues. Between the grammatical errors and the disjointed transitions, I would go with a 2.5 star if I could, but since that isn't an option, I have to give this a rating of 3 out of 4 stars.
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