In The Tree of Liberty, Elizabeth Page uses the family of Matthew Howard as a lens through which to view American history from 1754 through 1806.
The Howards had kin and connections throughout the colonies and among the political elite of the Revolutionary era. Page doesn’t have to invent situations to show the political turmoil of those days.
Page follows Matt as he grows up hearing tales of the frontier, adoring Colonel Washington and going to school with Tom Jefferson.
Matt marries a Tidewater aristocrat, Jane Peyton, who instinctively distrusts “the common people” as much as Matt champions them. Their political differences carry on through two more generations.
The novel really isn’t about the Howards, though. The main character is really the American political system, the “tree of liberty.”
Page’s novel moves almost as slowly as the actual events she describes.
I felt as if I should care, that reading the novel was good for me, but that didn’t make me enjoy it.
The novel might have a salutary effect on Americans fretting over the slowness of the Iraqi government to achieve democracy, but, quite honestly, reading about the growth of the tree of liberty is about as exciting as watching paint dry.The Tree of Liberty By Elizabeth Page Farrar & Rinehart 1939 973 pages 1939 bestseller # 8 My Grade: C +