Patriot's Dream, by Barbara Michaels

>> Thursday, February 17, 2005

Patriot's Dream, by Barbara Michaels was written in 1976, in time to celebrate the bicentennial of the American Revolution.

Jan Wilde came to Williamsburg, Virginia, for a much-needed vacation. But her dreams at night were far from restful... Night after night, a stranger called to her, reached out to her from two centuries past, fueled by the fires of war and the fury of passion. He seemed so real, so close -yet by morning, he was just a memory. Who was this lover from the past? Only Jan's dreams could reveal the truth.
This is a bad blurb, it makes it sound as if there's a romantic link between Jan and this dream man of hers. The dreams are much more than that: in them, she follows the life of a group of people in the years before and during the American Revolution. She becomes especially attached to one of these people, Jonathan, the pacifist, the radical, the idealist, but I didn't perceive anything sexual about it. She did care (and passionately) about him, but this is no romance-caught between-time kind of thing. Anyway, I really enjoyed Patriot's Dream. I'd give it a B+.

The book goes back and forth between Jan's life, vacationing with her great-aunt and uncle in Williamsburg, and, through her dreams, Charles and Jonathan's time, starting in 1774. Both parts are fascinating, and whenever I'd reach the end of a chapter I'd wish I could stay in that time, right until I got caught up in the next chapter and felt the exact same way when I reached the end of that one!

I was especially interested in the parts set in the past, basically because while I do know the rough facts about the American Revolution, it was all mostly new to me. I suppose it would all be much more familiar for the book's intended American audience, but history lessons in school here focus on Uruguayan history. I know all kinds of details about the Uruguayan fight for independence (or rather, to rejoin the United Provinces), but what I know about the American Revolution is a couple of history lessons in high school and whatever I picked up from fiction books.

So, while I'm not taking this as a serious history book, I was fascinated by the glimpse I got here into that particular moment. And I especially liked that while Michaels obviously admires many of the men involved and what they did, she has a very clear-eyed and unromantic way of looking at things. Her vision of the times isn't idealistic, and she accepts and points out the inconsistencies in things like fighting for lovely ideals like liberty and at the same time keeping slaves.

The parts of the book set in the present were wonderful, too. I enjoyed Jan and her relationship with her relatives, and I really liked the romance. She has a couple of candidates, but no one who's ever read this author would ever doubt who she'll end up with.


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