Monday, January 5, 2015

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume 1: The Pox Party by M.T. Andersen

★★★★ 1/2
"And then they imprisoned me in darkness; and though there was no color there, I was still black and they were still white."

This historical novel tells the story of a young boy named Octavian during the years before the Revolutionary War.  He is raised by his mother, an African princess, along with a group of philosophers and scientists, and given an education in the classics and music.  Octavian later learns that he is a slave owned by Mr. Gitney, the manager of the institution, and that he is being studied as part of an experiment to question whether his race is equal to that of Europeans.  Octavian has everything provided for him as a child, but both his education and livelihood quickly change when Mr. Sharpe takes over the society.  When Octavian’s mother dies of exposure to the pox, he runs away to join up with the Colonial Army and befriends a man named Private Ev  Goring.  He is eventually captured and taken back to Mr. Sharpe where he soon escapes with his former teacher to freedom.

I really enjoyed this book.  I read M. T. Anderson’s Feed a few years ago and was excited to see that another book by this author was on the reading list.  Even though the two books were very different, they illustrated Anderson’s ability to completely involve readers in the time period.  The very observant language was a little hard to get though, but I thought the author did an excellent job of describing Octavian’s unique situation through his reflections.  I was very interested in learning about the types of experiments that were performed on Octavian and how they affected him as he grew up.  The author also showed a different perspective of slavery that I was not very familiar with, making the book both entertaining and informative to read.  I would highly recommend this novel to both young adults and adults, especially if they are interested in learning more about the time period.

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