Saturday, August 11, 2007

Book Review - "The Lost Constitution"

I brought "The Lost Constitution" by William Martin (published by Tom Doherty Associates, New York, 2007)on our vacation, and finished it this morning. This is a work of historical fiction, comparable to Martin's other works such as "Back Bay," "Harvard Yard," "Cape Cod," "Annapolis" and "Citizen Washington."

The focus of this book is an annotated copy of the first draft of the Constitution that may shed light on how the Framers developed the final version, especially as it pertained to Second amendment rights. There are two stories here - the historical travels of this document through time, and the search in present times by Peter Fallon (a rare-book expert) and his girlfriend, Evangeline, for the actual document, using historical clues to find it while fighting off several persons who want the document to support their political agenda. The book shifts between the historical chapters and the current search chapters.

The book takes us from Shays' Rebellion in 1786 to Philadelphia, Newport RI and Millbridge MA (a fictional place on the Blackstone River) in 1787; then Millbridge MA and Portland ME in 1861 to Fredericksburg VA and back to Portland ME, then the White Mountains in NH and St. Albans VT in 1864. The author gives us background information about these places and times, and I learned quite a bit about mills on the Blackstone, Shays' Rebellion, the St. Albans incident at the end of the Civil War, etc.

There is one family - named Pike - involved at the beginning, but as the generations multiply there is a web of many families by 2006, which includes many of Fallon's adversaries in the modern-day search. The family fortunes ebb and flow, the mill in Millbridge changes hands several times, and the document appears and disappears. Real-life historical figures appear in the fictional historical story based on their papers and other information.

One of the historical figures in the book was Rufus King, whom I had not heard of previously. He was one of the Framers of the Constitution, was a US Senator, twice a Vice-Presidnetial candidate, and a Presidential candidate in 1816. His Wikipedia summary is here. He sounds like quite an important and interesting person in American history. Methinks we don't know enough about the Framers' lives - we owe them so much!

I love books like this that add to my knowledge of historical times and places. If others know of similar historical fiction books, I would appreciate knowing about them.

I highly recommend this book to genealogy and history aficionados, and encourage those interested in New England history to read all of William Martin's books set in New England.

1 comment:

Lori Thornton said...

I had just added those to my wish list last week. I was hoping they were good. I'm going to see if I can pick them up at McKays in Knoxville before I order them online, but I'm very glad to know that they are as good as they sounded. Are they stand alone novels, or do they need to be read in a certain order?