Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Whiskey Rebels - David Liss

Title: The Whiskey Rebels
Author: David Liss
Narrator: Christopher Lane

Publisher: Brilliance Audio

I thought I'd take a break from cover letters and applications to post about an audio book my husband and I listened to a few months ago.  We were taking a road trip through Texas to see his family and I was searching through the library to find a good compatible story.  I saw this one and immediately picked it up.  I had heard about this book last year and had wanted to read it.  I loved it.  I have to say Christopher Lane's narration was amazingly well done.

The story:

This historical fiction is set just after the Revolutionary period in American history.  It flips between two perspectives: Ethan Saunders, a disgraced American revolutionary spy and Joan Maycott, a newly married woman embarking on frontier life in Pennsylvania.

Let me say right here that these are high on my list of favorite fictional characters.  Ethan Saunders is just a crack up.  Christopher Lane as narrator provide such a witty, sarcastic, and lovable character.  Here's the beginning taken from Google books:

It was rainy and cold outside, miserable weather, and though I had not left my boardinghouse determined to die, things were now different. After consuming far more than my share of that frontier delicacy Monongahela rye, a calm resolution had come over me.  A very angry man named Nathan Dorland was looking for me, asking for me at every inn, chophouse, and tavern in the city and making no secret of his intention to murder me.  Perhaps he would find me tonight and, if not, tomorrow or the next day.  Not any later than that.  It was inevitable only because I was determined not to fight against the tide of popular opinion - which is to say, that I ought to be killed.

He was a spy during the Revolution and unjustly disgraced.  Now a few years after, he drinks more than he ought, is a roguish ladies man, and has only one friend in the world, his slave Leonidis.  However, when the love of his life, Cynthia Pearson asks for his help on the whereabouts of her husband, he jumps at the chance to help her and redeem himself.  While he's helping her out, he gets dumped right into the fray between Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of Treasury and his rival Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State.  There's much about the Bank of the United States and the beginning of America's stock market and Wall Street.  If you even slightly interested in finance, this might interest you but if you aren't, you won't be lost in the jargon.

Then there's Joan Maycott.  I loved her.  Her story starts right before she meets her husband.  She's so intelligent, loves to read, and is interesting in finance.  After she is married, the young couple decides to head out West and find their fortune but they end up facing hardship and constant struggle.  However, their lives start to improve after her husband decides to join the whiskey distilling business.  While Joan Maycott and Ethan Saunder stories do not appear to be related, their paths eventually cross.

I was absolutely enthralled with this book.  I love historical fiction that always makes me want to look up historical facts about characters and events.   I also loved the juxtaposition of the stories.  Ethan Saunders' tale always made me laugh but Joan Maycott's story was tragic in many ways.  I think this balanced combination was perfect.  Joan Maycott was a lovely and intelligent person and I loved her character.

I think the only problem I had with this book was the length as it was quite long, especially for an audiobook.  I looked it up and the paperback is 560 pages.  So not that bad for me but it was a little too long for my husband.

A few months ago while I was touring the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky, I saw a display at Woodford Reserve about this period in history.

And if you're interested in the Monongahela Rye Ethan Saunders mentioned above, check out this plaque:
And just because I'm posting photos:

Also Reviewed By:

Maggie Reads
Devourer of Books
Minds Alive on the Shelves
Writing the Renaissance (David Liss on "Historical Subjectivity")


  1. I read this book when it first came out; loved it...though I thought it was going to be a different kind of book. I was pleasantly surprised by how well the foundation of the national bank was explained and about Alexander Hamilton's role in it.

  2. The Bourbon Train looks like a fantastic place to visit. I am just getting into historical fiction and I do like the sound of this.

  3. I'm always looking for great audios for my husband and this looks like a good fit for him. Thanks for the recommendation :)