Etta, the first novel by Gerald Kolpan (and another Early Reviewer book) is a winner. In it, Kolpan imagines the life of Etta Place, a “real-life” figure about whom little is known beyond her status as girlfriend of the Sundance Kid. The life Kolpan creates for Etta is perfect – adventurous and complex with a great sprinkling of real historical figures. It’s not the truth, but it’s better than. It’s life at its storytelling best.
Kolpan has done his research. Having just finished a non-fiction book with a chapter on the Harvey Girls, it was interesting to see them pop up again in fictional form. And to see how close to the historical truth the depiction was. One thing that I really like about historical fiction is that it offers you a glimpse of another world. Etta did this for me – and made for a quick and entertaining end of the year read. I would recommend it, if you like historical fiction.
This is my fifth Early Reviewer book (and I have two more waiting for me at home!), and the first by an author I had read before. I read David Liss’s last book The Coffee Trader almost exactly a year ago, and I liked it okay, but it didn’t thrill me. Still, when faced with the option of a free book, I thought I would give him another try – and I’m really glad I did.
The Whiskey Rebels is set in post-Revolutionary War America – and the story is told by two separate, but equally compelling narrators: a disgraced former spy and a strong frontierswoman (as a side note, it was amusing to me to think of the area around Pittsburgh as being the “West” although of course it was in the 1790s). The fictional events of the story swirl around real historical events – the launch of new American banks, the imposition of a whiskey tax – and figures – Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, and more.
The novel was well written (even in Advanced Reader format, which still had a few typos) and an enjoyable read. I really like historical fiction and would definitely recommend it to others who do as well. According to the author’s website, he is currently working on another novel set in the same time period in America, and I will be interested to read that when it comes out. In the meantime, he has three other books that I haven’t read and am now curious about. I have lots of books on my To Read list, but I think his first novel will get added to the bottom.