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Saturday, July 6, 2013

READ THIS: BUNKER HILL: A City, A Siege, A Revolution by Nathaniel Philbrick Our Coverage Sponsored by Maine Woolens

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Do YOU know what happened June 17, 1775? says Peachy dressed as Uncle Sam.
In the most patriotic weekend of the year, we do hope you are reading the most patriotic BOOK of the year: Bunker Hill.  Enjoyed by those that are true patriots, Bunker Hill is written with panache and style by proven author Nathaniel Philbrick-we're going to Tweet and Facebook you Nathaniel, whom we were delighted to meet at BEA:
...and thank you to Louise Braverman, who is a star! 
This is the battle that determined the fate of the English-speaking world.  Good thing Penguin printed this in the United States of America because that means we can read it-we are fed up with items that claim to be patriotic printed "overseas."  
You cannot properly understand and fully appreciate why we celebrate Independence Day each year without knowing all that led up to it, and in Bunker Hill, a lot will be elucidated through fine characters of integrity and strategic thought, in addition to sheer will and determination shown by our ancestors, if you can trace back that far!  (Peachy's great-great grandmother was a Breed, as in Breed's Hill, where the Bunker Hill battle was really fought.)  We may be all yay-rah-rah Drink American Drink Star Vodka for the 4th of July and watch the fireworks, but we do it with full meaning behind it including the story of Bunker Hill.  And after reading this, the whole idea of Whom You Know makes even more sense.  "Spiritual, ornery and clannish, the New Englanders defined their struggle in profoundly local terms.  They refused to serve under an officer they did not know or like." (p. 179)

Revolutions don't just happen overnight, and thank you Boston College for all the history lectures by the late great Thomas O'Connor and more and awarding Peachy with a BA in American History and a superb historical foundation to read this book on.  A lot of toil and trouble was bubbling over-and we're not talking Shakespeare- by the time we declared our Independence from England.  And by the time we reach the climax of Bunker Hill, it was double double toil and trouble.  Basic liberties were being violated with the Stamp Act and the Towwnshend Acts.  Taxation without representation and the Tea Party were key.  (no, that the one by Prep-Unit though that one is fun-you know no one's hotter than a New England gangster, especially when they fought in the Revolution!)  Everyone knows it all started with the Mayflower and by 1630, Boston was settled.  As the American colony grew more prosperous, just like any parent company lording over a division, England exerted more control and the colonists had less of a say in their exact destiny.  That was the whole point of leaving England: to enjoy freedom-religious and otherwise.  Hello England, what were you thinking turning Faneuil Hall into a theatre and with the Government Act which made town meetings in Massachusetts illegal?  You were adding fuel to the fire the whole way through.  And Americans are smart enough to think outside the box today, and it's probably genetic as the colonists back then remembered they could still have COUNTY meetings.

And so began the Patriots (no, not the Tom Brady ones but where do you think they got their name from silly!) versus the Loyalists (those that agree with England).  There were also those that did not know where they stood, but those kinds of people always get lost or caught up and need to take sides at the end of the day if they want to matter.  Philbrick states early on:
"Because a Revolution gave birth to our nation, Americans have a tendency to exalt the concept of a popular uprising.  We want the whole world to be caught in a blaze of liberating upheaval (with appropriately democratic results) because that is what worked so well for us." (p. xvi)

Though we really love London, England and the UK especially all our readers there of course, we are American first and we must say to this day they must be thinking of the USA as the one that got away and we hate to rub it in, but feel entitled this weekend.  We would have been the crowning jewel of their Empire however they can now count on us as their best friend internationally and vice versa.  237 years can do a lot to heal!

However, back to the plot.  Let the battles begin.  March 5, 1770 marked the night of the Boston Massacre.  Even star people of the time like John Singleton Copley (hint-go to The Met if you don't know who we're talking about) were not to be trusted when they marry unpatriotically.  
Tarring and feathering were the punishment without hesitation for traitors.  From Concord to Lexington and Lexington to Charlestown, the exciting drama unfolds thanks to the genius of Philbrick's masterful storytelling.  You'll also learn how Connecticut intelligently elected a governor...Connecticut is a State and Massachusetts still is calling itself a Commonwealth we believe.

History is exciting.  Be introduced to the rock stars of the day: Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, John don't have to be from New England to love these Patriots!  One if by Land, Two if by Sea is more than just a saying-there were a lot of limitations before phones and the internet.  You'll learn why it was absolutely essential for the colonies to remain on the defensive and become the victim.  We love the striking, detailed military history included that is often left out of courses taught formally which instead focus on the political and cultural.  Reading about conflict teaches the future how to avoid it, if and when possible with rational people.  Terrain, limited gunpowder and waiting to see the whites of the enemy's eyes all played a part.

Strategies are so well-written by Philbrick and the thinking behind them is craftily laid out.  Philbrick knows what he is talking about on every point of every page including what he concludes about seventy men on the Lexington green, and even if you already have a great understanding of all that is American you have quite a bit to learn from him.  And if you don't have a grasp of American history, do get with the program as it is the coolest history in the world and no other country has been able to achieve democracy with such success, yet.  Philbrick is so detailed you know how the nearsighted characters eyesight influenced the Revolution.   He is an author who truly cares about his work we can tell. 

This book is also punctuated by great maps.  As Peachy once lived in the Back Bay on the corner of Newbury, it was truly strange to see it as water.  But it was back then!  We know now Marlborough is parallel to Newbury but we see on page 20 that it once turned into it.  We know Boston is strong as we lived there for years before New York and BOSTON STRONG is celebrated more now than ever of course.  Another great tidbit is you are going to learn where many of the MBTA stops got all their names from....the paintings included are fantastic as well.  No, there were not cameras back then for the historically-challenged among you.

In case we haven't said enough to convince you, you will be pleased to know that BUNKER HILL has been optioned for film by Ben Affleck and Warner Brothers, whom we also love for ARGO:
If the signers of the Declaration saw it, we think they'd direct the title's command phrase (Argo...yourselves) to the redcoats of course...we can't wait to see it as if you think he did a great job with Argo, which he did, just imagine what he's going to do to a story that makes the city of Boston the hero.   Do not wait for the movie.  You know Ben Affleck's got to be reading the book!!!  After you read it too, you can see how good of a job he does.

Whom You Know Highly Recommends Bunker Hill!
Read it this weekend and celebrate our Independence, and understand why it is character alone that matters, so says Abigail Adams.

In BUNKER HILL: A City, A Siege, A Revolution Nathaniel Philbrick, award-winning and bestselling author of In The Heart of the Sea and Mayflower, brings his prodigious talents to the story that ignited the American Revolution. With passion and insight, Philbrick reconstructs the revolutionary landscape—geographic and ideological—in a mesmerizing narrative of the robust, messy, and blisteringly real origins of America.

For most of us the American Revolution is about the Founding Fathers, the Declaration of Independence, and how George Washington led the colonies through the decade-long struggle that ultimately led to the formation of the United States. Lost in this account of the slow march toward liberty is the truly cataclysmic nature of how the revolution began: The interplay of ideologies and personalities that provoked a group of merchants, farmers, artisans, and sailors to take up arms against their own country. With his precise sense of the unexplored side of mythic events, Philbrick turns his keen eye to pre-Revolutionary Boston—a city of 15,000 inhabitants packed onto a land-connected island of just 1.2 square miles—and the gradual up-tick of tension that climaxed in June 1775 with the Battle of Bunker Hill, the first major battle of what became the American Revolution and the War of Independence. 

In BUNKER HILL, Philbrick brings a fresh perspective to every aspect of the story. As it turns out, the triumvirate of Founding Fathers generally associated with Boston—John Adams, Sam Adams, and John Hancock—was far from the scene when the city erupted. The real work of choreographing the Revolution’s outbreak was done by a thirty-three-year-old physician named Joseph Warren, who emerged as the on-the-ground leader of the Patriot cause. Warren gave William Dawes and Paul Revere the orders to send out the alarm that British troops were headed to Concord; Warren remained in the city until the last possible moment, then joined the fighting as the British soldiers retreated back to Boston. Soon after, Warren was elected President of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress even as he supervised the organization of the nascent Continental Army. 

The real central character in this story is Boston, where vigilantes fill the streets with a sinister and frightening violence even as calmer patriots struggle to see their way to rebellion. The action of the book tracks in detail the eighteen months following the Boston Tea Party (Dec. 1773), as Boston turned from the center of patriot defiance to a British-occupied city under a patriot siege. Through storied events such as the skirmishes at Lexington and Concord, Philbrick builds to the extraordinary moment in American history when a group of ordinary citizens stood up to several regiments of British regulars as the Battle of Bunker Hill. This is the great tipping point, the bloodiest engagement of the Revolution when several hundred citizen soldiers had the bravery and discipline to hold their fire until the British soldiers, each one with a bayonet mounted to the barrel of his musket, marched to within fifteen yards of the patriot entrenchment. Only then, once they could see “the whites of their eyes,” did the rebels fire, ultimately killing or wounding almost half the British force. Not until the third British charge did the Americans retreat, and only then because they had run out of ammunition. With this single battle, the ultimate course of the American Revolution had been foretold. 

About the Author

NATHANIEL PHILBRICK is The New York Times bestselling author of National Book Award winner In the Heart of the Sea, Pulitzer Prize finalist Mayflower, Sea of Glory, and The Last Stand. He is also the author of Why Read Moby-Dick? and Away Off Shore. He lives on Nantucket. 

Visit him at and follow @natphilbrick
BUNKER HILL has been optioned for film by Ben Affleck and Warner Bros.

Penguin Group (USA) Inc. is the U.S. member of the internationally renowned Penguin Group. Penguin Group (USA) is one of the leading U.S. adult and children's trade book publishers, owning a wide range of imprints and trademarks, including Berkley Books, Dutton, Frederick Warne, G.P. Putnam's Sons, Grosset & Dunlap, New American Library, Penguin, Philomel, Riverhead Books and Viking, among others. The Penguin Group is part of Pearson plc, the international media company.

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