Boathouse Row Philadelphia, PA

Main menu:

← Back to library

Oliver Wiswell

By Kenneth Lewis Roberts

Oliver Wiswell

You can view this book's Amazon detail page here.


Started reading:
19th November 2010
Finished reading:
4th January 2011


Rating: Unrated

It isn’t often that I go back more than 70+ years to find a book to read but awhile back I was give a used copy of Kenneth Roberts’ book, Oliver Wiswell. The premise of Roberts’ historical novel is that the American revolutionary war was as much the first civil war as a war of independence from England. The entire book is written from the perspective of an American Loyalist. Lest you think this approach is only a fictional construct, Thomas B. Allen just wrote a NONFICTION history of the Loyalists called Tories and documents many similar experiences of Oliver Wiswell.

The book narrates the events in the life 0f the books namesake, Oliver Wiswell; Yale undergraduate, Massachusetts native and ardent Loyalist. The book opens with Oliver rescuing his soon-to-be adventure companion, Tom Buell from a tar and feathering at the hands of a rebel mob. Oliver and Tom then flee the wrath of rebel neighbors and begin a serious of adventures that form the backdrop for the entire book. Roberts doesn’t overlook a love interest for the young Oliver and ties him back to his roots in Massachusetts through his love of Sally Leighton, a neighbor. The love affair between Oliver and Sally is a Shakespearean Montague-Capulet plot as Oliver is Loyalist and Sally is of a rebel family.

Roberts does an excellent job of weaving the events of the entire revolutionary war from the occupation of Boston by the British, through numerous battles from Bunker Hill to Yorktown ending with the exodus of ten of thousands of Loyalists to Nova Scotia. He has Oliver and Tom traveling through most of the American colonies, Halifax, England and France. Roberts accomplishes this narrative in a realistic and lively manner in 836 pages.

Today, Kenneth Roberts isn’t a well known popular author. Roberts was born in Kennebuk, Maine in 1885 and died in 1957. He was a graduate of Cornell University and served as a lieutenant in World War I station as an intelligence officer in Siberia. His journalistic career started with the Boston Post and later the Saturday Evening Post. As a historical novelist Roberts was a prolific writer from 1929 to 1955. The focus of all his novels are the events from the American Revolution through the War of 1812. His novels were mainstays as top 10 best sellers including Northwest Passage, Oliver Wiswell and Lydia Bailey.

Oliver Wiswell is recommended reading for a different perspective on the Revolutionary War. Though a work of fiction, Oliver Wiswell is well grounded in fact and does not embellish events for dramatic effect.