Friday, March 1, 2019

Book Review: The Best of Enemies by Nancy Bond (1978)

The youngest sibling in her family by quite a few years, twelve-year-old Charlotte Paige, also called Charlie, often feels left out of the lives of her brothers and sister, all of whom are adults with concerns very different from her own. She is, however, looking forward to the annual Patriots' Day celebration in her hometown of Concord, Massachusetts, which promises to be an exciting event in the midst of her otherwise boring spring vacation. As it turns out, the days leading up to Patriots' Day prove to be even more exciting than Charlie expects when she begins to see unusual people hanging around town, dressed in period costumes and speaking with foreign accents. Commodore Shattuck and his grandson, Oliver, seem to know exactly why the strangers have appeared, and before long, Charlotte becomes involved with them in a somewhat absurd reenactment of historical events.

My husband recommended this book to me after I read We Alcotts and announced that I wanted to read more about Concord. Though there weren't that many references to the Alcotts and their contemporaries in this book, there were some, and I enjoyed visiting Concord during the twentieth century while also looking back on events from the eighteenth century. As a kid, I didn't really feel connected to historical fiction, and this book alleviates that problem for readers like I was by weaving facts about true historical events into a contemporary coming-of-age story. Charlie is a likable and believable adolescent girl, and the warmth of her family and the personalities of each of her siblings come across very strongly. I also like the fact that the author reveals what is actually happening in Concord very slowly, giving the reader the chance to observe and form theories before simply explaining the role of the mysterious visitors. This adds a layer of depth and sophistication to the novel that I think is especially appealing to middle schoolers.

There are two sequels to this book, which I really want to read! A Place to Come Back To (1984) is on Open Library, while The Love of Friends (1997) is available locally through inter-library loan. They're on my to-read list for later this year.

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