by Rachel Beanland
Rachel Beanland, the author of Florence Adler Swims Forever, is back with another compelling historical fiction novel based on true events.
Richmond,Virginia in 1811is at the height of the social season. The legisslature is in session and the city is packed with people. On the night after Christmas everyone is going to the only theater in town and soon it is filled with over 600 people. When a fire breaks out in the middle of the performance, there is chaos as everyone tries to escape the flames that are quickly consuming the building.
The story is told from the point of view of four people; Sally, a young widow, is visiting her husband’s brother and his wife and they are looking forward to the performance that night. Cecily, a young slave, is sitting in the colored section while her mistress is sitting with her friends in another section. Jack, a young orphan who works at the theater, is also there. Across town, Gilbert is working as a blacksmith hoping to be able to buy his wife’s freedom. When the fire breaks out they all make choices that will have consequences for the future.
The House is on Fire is well written and kept me interested. I wasn’t familiar with this historical event and I liked each of the main characters. The book left some things unresolved so I am wondering if there might be a sequel.
The House is on Fire will be published on April 4, 2023. Thanks to Simon and Schuster and NetGalley for the advanced reading copy.