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and life along the winding road

Friday, February 5, 2016

Or Give Me Death by Ann Rinaldi

Or Give Me Death is a novel about Patrick Henry's Family by Ann Rinaldi.  I've often found that the best books to read for a glimpse into history are Young Adult books and this one is for ages 10-14. While we all know of Patrick's Henry place in history as the first governor of the Commonwealth under the new constitution and his speach "Give Me Liberty or Give me Death", it appears there is little known about his family. While mostly fiction, Ms. Rinaldi does use knowledge of the time to give us an idea of what life in the Henry household was like. Told from the point of view of Patrick Henry's daughters Patsy (Martha Henry) and Anne, the major hurdle his family had to overcome was his wife's mental state. Rather than move her to a local asylum, which was a wing of the jail with little or no amenities, they renovated a cellar into living quarters for her where she could not escape (according to the novel she had tried to drown her youngest baby). His son, John, also had an incident where "he went mad" after the Battle of Saratoga. With Patrick Henry away for most of the time, Patsy, his eldest daughter, was left to take the role as mistress of the house during a time when slaves were thought to be planning an uprising. A heavy burden for a young woman.

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