By Bernard Cornwell, Harper, $25.99, 480 pages
The last ten words of this novel (from Historical Notes) are ‘history is a fickle muse and fame her unfair offspring.’ Indeed. Sometimes the best author cannot turn a specific bit of history into a compelling work of historical fiction. It’s almost a personal injury to imply otherwise, but it still happens.
It’s important to remember that history is written by the winner (of the battle). If the battle is little known or of little interest, the most talented writer on the face of the earth may not be able to produce an absolute page-turner. So it is with Bernard Cornwell’s The Fort: A Novel of the Revolutionary War.
The problem is 99% of us have never heard of the fort in question here, nor even the battle that transpired around it. It’s an uphill struggle to explain convincingly to most Americans that Paul Revere was court-martialed on charges of being a coward (or worse) and Mr. Cornwell’s best efforts fail to bring it to sufficient life.
Set in the area of Penobscot Bay Maine (then Massachusetts) in 1779, the average reader has nothing to grab hold of. No familiarity with time or place or why there should have been a battle there, in the first place.
Reviewed by Kelly Ferjutz