I just finished reading David McCullough’s 1776. What a compelling book! Of course I know the ending. Of course I know what happened after. The story line is nothing new. David McCullough’s writing style, however, is so suspenseful that I found I couldn’t put the book down! I read and read and read until it was done, and then I didn’t want it to be done, I wanted him to go on and describe 1777 in the same style, and then 1778 and so on, clear to the Treaty of Paris in 1783. I know this book was written as a companion to his prize-winning biography of John Adams, but I wish he had written a biography of George Washington instead. Maybe he still will. Meanwhile, I am going to march myself right down to our little basement library and get out all the other David McCullough books that my husband loves so much and start in on them.
Usually I read murder mysteries. I love murder mysteries for what P.D. James described as their ability to restore the order in a universe threatening to disintegrate into chaos. My favorite murder mystery writer is Anne Perry, although I also enjoy P.D. James, Ellis Peters, and a lot of others, especially those writing historical mysteries. Maybe it is because I enjoy the historical mysteries so much that I am now moving over to historical nonfiction. Sometimes when I've been reading a historical mystery, the details of setting and atmosphere spark an interest that I find I’ve just got to satisfy by doing my own research into the period.
There are a lot of dull history writers out there, that’s for sure. But in the hands of a master storyteller, history becomes as compelling as any plot-driven work of fiction. Perhaps the reason David McCullough succeeds so well is because for me, he makes sense of the beginnings of this nation of ours, and his sense of what happened in those times reflects upon what is happening now, when we are so torn by what our leaders are or are not doing. Perhaps in the pages of history I will find truth that restores order to the universe threatening to disintegrate into chaos.