The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: Volume 1, The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson 2006
IQ "He replied, 'What is in my Heart is not simple'.
& I says, 'Then you han't listened.'
& He says, 'I listen, & cannot understand its Speech.'
& I says, 'Then it ain't your Heart you hear. '" Private Evidence Goring pg. 260
I can't describe this book. If I do, it will give something away. So if you haven't heard of this book, read it. If you want to read this book and something is stopping you, read it now. If you've already read this book, what did you think?
Octavian is being raised by a group of philosophers and scientists. He lives in luxury, with the best of clothes and food. His mother is charming, an African princess and treated like royalty. Octavian is happy in his home but he does not understand what his guardians are studying and he wants to find out. He searches the house and the answer and journey that the answer sends him on is truly horrifying.
M.T. Anderson is a truly gifted author, the way he describes things is just sigh worthy, starting on the first page, "I was raised in a gaunt house with a garden; my earliest recollections are of floating lights in the apple-trees. I recall, in the orchard behind the house, orbs of flames rising through the black boughs and branches; they climbed, spirituous, and flickered out." You can turn to any random page and find an example of language being used beautifully, "The breeze itself was warm; the islands soft with moss; the loons calling melancholy in forgotten bays, and Life in all its operations seemed unspeakably generous." pg.95 However, I do think the way language is used in this book can make it a difficult read. The words are true to the 18th century (both in spelling and meaning) and references are made to classic Greek and Latin writings and events. The book is long and I imagine it would be a most frustrating read for a reader who is forced to read the book and continuously stumbles over incomprehensible words.
I also think this book did an excellent job of detailing most of the worries people had in the days leading up to the American Revolutionary War (the book ends in 1775). It shows the attitudes of the Tories, the Patriots and slaves. The events chronicled will make you cringe. The pox party concept is absolutely disgusting and the author describes the smallpox disease in a nauseating way. And it gets worse. But through it all, I was unable to put the book down.
The story is mostly told through Octavian writing in a journal, but it is also told through letters, stories, Psalms and public announcements. at one point, Octavian crosses out six pages of writing, all the reader sees is black ink. The result is heart-wrenching because you can imagine what has happened and you feel deeply for Octavian. An issue that is never explained is why the book is called Octavian Nothing. Octavian's last name is Gitney. My guess is that Octavian did not want to be associated with the last name of Gitney and felt that he never truly belonged to any family thus resulting in him naming himself Nothing.
This is historical fiction at its finest; authentic, captivating and more than a little appalling (the details described not the way the book is written). I'm eager to read the sequel and I think this book is a must-read even if you don't like historical fiction, Octavian's story is compelling and will suck you in. High school and up.
This is perhaps one of my shortesr reviews, but all I can say is READ THIS BOOK.