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Barbara Michaels – Patriot’s Dream

July 17, 2009

86. Patriot’s Dream by Barbara Michaels (1976)

Length: 340 pages

Genre: Hard to classify; mostly a historical fiction/general fiction hybrid, with hints of romance and mystery in there as well.

Started: 11 July 2009
Finished: 15 July 2009

Where did it come from? Bookmooch.
Why do I have it? Recommended for me by heidenkind at the 4 Rs challenge.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 22 June 2009
Verdict? Probably going back to BookMooch or the library booksale.

Losing yourself in
dreams: fine in theory, but not
so good in practice.

Summary: Jan Wilde is visiting her aging aunt and uncle in their historic Williamsburg home in the summer of 1976, when she starts having vivid dreams, unlike any she’s had before. She dreams of her ancestor, Charles, a brash but good-hearted soldier in Washington’s army, and his friend, Jonathan, a tumultuous young pacifist and abolitionist. The dreams are more intense and more detailed than Jan can explain, and she finds herself increasingly obsessed with them, even to the point of shutting out normal life, and even though whether or not they’re accurate, it’s all already happened in the past… or has it?

Review: My main problem with this book was the amount of suspension of disbelief required. Not about the vivid, historically accurate dreams – those were a plot device that I was readily willing to accept, and the historical fiction chapters were actually the best parts of the book. No, what bothered me was the speed and the ease with which everything happened in the modern-day (or, well, 1976) sections. Jan has one, maybe two of these dreams, and all of a sudden she’s in love with Jonathan and taking sleeping pills in the afternoon to get back into her dream world. Likewise, she’s been in town for a few weeks and already finds herself fending off not one but two marriage proposals, even though she spends most of her time either dreaming, or researching the historical events from her dreams.

That was another thing – the parts of the modern storylines that weren’t exceedingly silly were spent recapitulating the historical events that we had *just* read about in the “dream” chapters, just to be sure we got it. The ending is about as contrived as the rest of the book, but it is one of the better possible ways to resolve the storylines; about halfway through the book, I was envisioning possible endings so ridiculous that I was actually hoping that the dreams were the result of a brain tumor. (Schwarzenegger-esque spoiler: It’s not a toomah, but the cause of the dreams isn’t ever really explained, either.)

Barbara Michaels is a pen name of Elizabeth Peters, who writes the wildly popular Amelia Peabody egyptologist mysteries, so obviously there are people out there who like what she does. (I haven’t read any of her other books, so I can’t compare.) I can see how Patriot’s Dream would be good fiction comfort reading, if this sort of book is your style – it’s quick, light, not particularly thematically challenging, but interesting enough to hold the attention, and with adequate splashes of gothic-ness and romance and mystery to be entertaining. I just found the plotting to be too contrived to really lose myself in it. 3 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Not great, but not terrible, although it is starting to show its age in places. Folks who enjoy historical fiction from the American Revolution and who aren’t looking for anything particularly serious will probably have the best luck with this one.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: The man who bought her called her Leah.

Vocab: (see the whole list)

  • p. 28: “All that talk about Washington dining with the govenor, and the burgesses‘ resolution to hold a day of mourning for Boston. . . . ” – a representative in the popular branch of the colonial legislature of Virginia or Maryland.
  • p. 31: “So far as Jan could see, Camilla’s acidulous comments on his drinking were unjustified; as a result of her nagging he had a tendency to sneak drinks on the sly, but not to excess.” – sharp; caustic.
6 Comments leave one →
  1. July 17, 2009 4:00 pm

    Thanks for the review – I think I’ll skip this one.

  2. July 17, 2009 6:22 pm

    I do love Amelia Peabody but she doesn’t suffer from the desire to escape her life in sleep. Barbara Michaels has written some serviceable horror (sort of) books but this doesn’t sound like one of them!

    Now read an Amelia Peabody book, preferably the first one. Just to compare. :)

  3. July 17, 2009 8:15 pm

    have I told you that I really enjoy your haiku? I do.

  4. July 18, 2009 4:03 am

    I loved the historical parts of the book, but I agree with you that the “modern” parts were kind of weak.

  5. July 21, 2009 9:57 am

    bermudaonion – Yeah, I don’t think you’d be missing too much.

    Carrie K – Okay, it’s going on my list. :)

    Care – You’re only two syllables away from a respectable one yourself, there.

    heidenkind – I wonder how it was received when it first came out, with the bicentennial and everything.

  6. July 24, 2009 4:33 pm

    You are ahead of me! I need to make my selection and start reading. Good review. Despite the modern portion, this book sounds interesting. I might have to keep my eye out for this as well.

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