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Come August, Come Freedom: The Bellows, The Gallows, and the Black General Gabriel
by Gigi Amateau

In 1800, an African-American slave named Gabriel planned a rebellion to gain freedom for the slaves of Virginia. Inspired by the successful revolution in Haiti, Gabriel and his two brothers organized thousands of slaves, Native Americans and even some whites to rise against their masters. However, the plot was uncovered and the leaders captured before it could be executed, and today Gabriel is largely forgotten. Starting from Gabriel's formative years, when he learned to read and write beside his future master, the novel follows the young man through his training as a blacksmith and brief marriage, weaving in original newspaper articles, courtroom transcriptions and letters pertaining to Gabriel's heroic attempt to free his people and bring equality to all.

I'm not quite sure who the intended market for this book is. The writing style aims young, with a simple style that is easy to follow. The dialogue is spare; although the whites speak “proper” English and the slaves use a more colloquial speech, individual characters all talk in more or less the same way. But while the writing seems perfect for a children's book, the themes are more young adult. Sex is implied several times, but it is done discreetly and indirectly. The story also starts on the slow side, and takes a while to build up to something entertaining. I imagine kids wouldn't have the patience to wait, but perhaps a teenager can.

I was really intrigued by the subject. Before this book, I hadn't heard of Gabriel or his attempted rebellion. Although I finished the book with a basic understanding of the facts of his life, I don't feel that I know the historical Gabriel at all. This is partly because the book – at least, the advance reader's copy that I received – does not contain any sort of bibliography or notes on sources. Although the back cover claims that “authentic” original documents are included, there's nothing in the text to confirm this assertion. It would have been nice to have, at minimum, a Foreword or Author's Note or something to let the reader know where history ends and the author's imagination begins.

3 out of 5 stars

To read more about Come August, Come Freedom, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2012: Book Reviews by Author, Q-Z
2011: The Healer's Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson
2010: The Lute Player by Norah Lofts
2009: Temporary Hiatus


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