Thursday, March 18, 2010

To Try Men's Souls

I just finished reading Newt Gingrich's novel (yes, novel) To Try Men's Souls, and it was much better than I thought it would be. Maybe it exceeded expectations because I thought I was going to have to read a political book by Gingrich, maybe it did because he wrote it with another guy (William R. Forstchen), or maybe it was better because I read most of it sitting outside in the sunshine. But whatever the reason, I'm grateful.

The book takes place on December 25, 1776, the day when George Washington led the American Army across the Delaware, and it centers on three characters: George Washington, Thomas Paine, and Jonathan Van Dorn (a person I'm pretty sure they just made up). Though I did find myself bored, particularly in Washington's segments, I found myself actually caring what became of Paine and Jonathan. The writing didn't strike me one way or the other. It wasn't bad, but I never found myself thinking "wow, that is a great sentence." (Which is, actually, something I think when I'm reading a good book.)

One thing I appreciated is that Gingrich and Forstchen did not get political in the novel, which made it much easier to read. The introduction made some political statements I didn't agree with (like saying "The modern education establishment has deliberately ignored American-history and minimized the importance of learning about America" p. xv.) but they did not carry into the novel.

I've waffled a lot with my rating for this novel. In the end, I'm giving it a 2/5, but it nearly got a 3. Reading it was not terrible, and, maybe if I liked historical fiction, it would've gotten the higher score. Either way, it definitely seemed like a book my Grandpa would like, and if you're into wartime historical fiction, I might recommend it.

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