Review: The Tree: Tales From a Revolution

The Tree: Tales From a Revolution - New-Hampshire audiobook cover. A majestic pine tree stands alone in a snowy landscape, with a sign in the centre of the cover bearing the title. The Tree: Tales From a Revolution - New-Hampshire by Lars D.H. Hedbor.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Duration: 5 hrs 11 mins.

The Tree, Tales from a Revolution: New-Hampshire by Lars D. H. Hedbor is a coming-of-age story, not only of an orphaned boy but of his country. With rebellion and revolution spreading, Abe must find a way to balance his living and his loyalties in this stand-alone tale. With only his eccentric aunt and odd neighbour to help guide him, Abe's future is as uncertain as America's..
Audible summary: Planting the tree of liberty is never easy.

Abe is haunted by the sudden loss of both parents. Left to manage a New-Hampshire land grant and its troublesome Royal Navy mast trees with only his eccentric aunt to guide him, he finds comfort in a new friendship with Betty, a decidedly odd neighbor. Defying the Royal Governor’s crackdowns and his aunt’s commands, Abe makes choices that put him on a collision course with both. With rebellion in the air, Abe must escape detection by the Governor’s agents and solve the puzzle of Betty’s past in order to secure his future.

Growing up in a port town and proud Naval city gave me a particular interest in learning more about the impact of the Crown's restrictions regarding the Royal Navy's mast trees. Living mere miles from Portsmouth's Historic Dockyard and the familiar sight of our most famous historic warships, I've trodden boards purportedly reclaimed from seized French ships, and followed the recent search for timbers in Aberdeenshire to ensure that Victory's ongoing restoration can continue.

Despite this, I'd read very little about the American mast trees that were commandeered for Royal Navy ships prior to the revolution. Although a fictionalised tale, I knew from my previous experience of the Tales From a Revolution series that Lars Hedbor's books have been well researched and are deeply rooted into the context of the time. The historical notes at the end help to clarify the creative license taken regarding the sequence of events, but in general the books seem to give an authentic sense of the era. Hedbor uses the stories of the ordinary people caught up in the Revolution to introduce the broader political climate, and as such the books are a good way to become a little more familiar with the history. As with The Freedman (which I reviewed earlier this year) I found myself a little ashamed of just how limited my knowledge of American history actually is. I don't remember learning much about it at school and European history has dominated my reading ever since. There's such a wealth of history close to home that I fear I have neglected much of that which took place farther afield. I've enjoyed this series because it makes the subject so accessible, and breaks down the extended timeline of the Revolution into manageable, personal reflections of specific turning-points within the War of Independence.

At the beginning of the story the young, orphaned Abe was, in many ways, as ignorant of the wider political machinations as I was myself. His naivety paves the way for his elders to explain the unrest and injustice, which in turn educates the listener without feeling like there is any unnecessary exposition.

As Abe begins to understand the implications he comes to realise that he must make some hard choices. His growing friendship and blossoming romance with mysterious orphan Betty tests the young man further, dividing his loyalties personally as well as patriotically. As Abe's interests clash with those of the Crown, he must take charge of his father's Land Grant; and of the consequences for defying the Governor's orders.

The description of Portsmouth, New Hampshire toward the end of the book was especially welcome, given the parallels between it and my own home, but the whole story evoked the burgeoning tensions between the people and the Crown and the widening divisions between the 'old' country and the new.

Narrator Shamaan Casey did an excellent job with this book, just as he did with The Freedman. The richness and depth of his voice was a pleasure to listen to, and lent these historical tales a timeless gravitas that echoed throughout the centuries spanning then and now. It felt as if I really was listening to a voice from America's Revolutionary past.

I'd recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the American Revolution, and those who enjoy books that tell the stories which are often forgotten by mainstream historical records. Hedbor's books shine a light into the dusty corners of history, and introduce us to the people on the fringes of the Revolution's key events.

*I received this audiobook free of charge in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.


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