I really enjoyed Rachel Beanland’s Florence Adler Swims Forever, so I was very excited for her new book The House is on Fire. I was not disappointed and will continue to read this very talented author.
The House is on Fire is a historical fiction set in 1811 Richmond, Virginia, based on the true story of a tragic theater fire.
I can’t think of another historical fiction set in this time. The nation is young, the Revolutionary War is not too far behind us and the Civil War still way ahead of us. Society is very segregated, split very clearly across race, sex, and wealth.
In the book, the fire happens in the first few pages, which left me wondering what would happen next? What happens next is a wonderful story centered around a handful of survivors. Beanland follows them in the days after the fire to see how their lives change after the tragedy.
Beanland has done her research and mixes in real people with some she has created (she outlines in a section at the end of the book exactly what is true). These people are diverse, including a newly widowed young woman, a slave, a newsman, members of the theater troop, a young mother, a native healer, and a rich family. You are swept in by the great description of that time and place, the fully developed characters, and the tightly knit plot. I don’t want to give away any more about these people and what happens to them, so you will be surprised.
The best part of this book is that it is so much more than historical fiction. The book is a story about morality, exploring how people act and react in times of crisis.
I read this as a passport book – historical fiction genre.