Title: The Hessian
Author: Howard Fast
When a troop of Hessians hangs half-wit Saul Clamberham, everyone living on the Ridge panicked. They call out the militia and ambush the Hessians, killing all but the drummer boy, who escapes. The ruthless and unrelenting hunt for the boy is on, but doctor Evan Feversham isn’t sure he wants to be involved. And when a Quaker family calls on him to take a bullet out of a Hessian’s back, he begins to doubt that the boy is really a threat. But if the terrified villagers get their hands on him, the fact that he’s sixteen and wasn’t a part of the hanging won’t matter…
I probably wouldn’t have picked this book up on my own. I don’t usually like historical novels, and this one didn’t seem to have much of a plot. But it was a book club book, and so I read it.
Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it.
Evan Feversham, the narrator, was a wimp. He didn’t do much, rarely made a decision (to paraphrase his own words, “most decisions are best left to God”), and generally went along with whatever people wanted him to do. When it came to the Hessian, there are at least three scenes where he just laments to his wife about not knowing what to do. And he ends up doing nothing. At all.
Other than him, there’s a handful of characters that move in and out of the story – members of the Quaker family, so many of them that I can’t seem to keep track of them, even now; Abraham Hunt, the hotheaded jerk who led the hunt for the Hessian, the Hessian himself, who is semi-unconscious for two of the four scenes he’s in.
I was right in my judgment about the plot, too – there wasn’t much of one. Most of it was Evan Feversham trying to decide if he should turn the Hessian in or not. Maybe the main plot was his emotional journey? Either way, I was not interested.
This story is set in the Revolutionary War era (I believe just before, but I can’t be sure), and it reads like it was written back then – and not in a good way. It was dense and stodgy with a very old tone that reminds me of the kind of classic nobody reads.
Overall, this was seriously not my thing. Characters, plot, writing style…I wasn’t a fan of any of them. This is one of those books that you won’t miss anything if you decide to skip it.