Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Book Review: "Theodosia and the Pirates", by Aya Katz
Here's another of Aya Katz's remarkable historical novels which use the point-of-view of offbeat characters, with their fitting contemporary quirks and biases, to illuminate odd corners of history. In this case Katz's protagonist is Theodosia Burr Alston, the miserably neurotic daughter of Aaron Burr, who doesn't just disappear at sea after her son's death but takes up with the privateer ("I am not a pirate!") Jean Lafitte -- and from this viewpoint reveals odd and fascinating details of politics in the southern states during the War of 1812. I'll bet your high-school history classes never mentioned that America's early navy owed more to pirates -- or privateers, depending on your viewpoint -- than to John Paul Jones.
Equally fascinating are the political intrigues between the freewheeling settlers of the gulf coast and the woefully inept officials of the new American republic. The story is studded with examples of actual letters from the historical characters, giving unique insights into the volatile society of early America with its shifting relationships between the sexes, the races, and the influences of the neighboring European empires. And of course, this being a historical Romance, there's plenty of good rampant sex.
One could make minor quibbles: there are occasional typographical errors, and the Impressionistic-painting cover would have done better within a solid frame, but none of these distract from the pace and flow of the story. Altogether, this is a complex and fascinating novel from a unique perspective. I, for one, can't wait for the sequel.