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The Fifth of March

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Historical events aren't as neat and tidy as they appear in history books, nor are they dissimilar from modern happenings (i.e., the Rodney King case), as Rinaldi ( A Break with Charity ) ably demonstrates in this painstakingly researched tale told by a young servant in colonial Boston. Rachel is 14, bound as a nursemaid to the children of John and Abigail Adams, at whose house she sees many of the town's ``movers and shakers'' (one of the book's few faults is its jarringly anachronistic language). When British troops are sent to Boston to keep order, Rachel--despite her increasingly anti-Royalist sentiments--takes pity on Matthew Kilroy, the young sentry posted at the Adamses' door. Their relationship gradually blossoms, but Rachel, who has embarked on an ambitious program to educate herself and who rightly fears ``getting into circumstances,'' refuses to demonstrate her affection in more than verbal terms. Lonely, frustrated, underpaid and reviled by the citizenry he was sent to protect, Matthew explodes during a riot on March 5, 1770, after which he and his fellows are tried for murder and manslaughter in the deaths of five colonialists. How Rachel acts according to her newly awakened social conscience and sense of self-worth makes for engrossing and educational reading. However, readers may object to Rachel's sense of guilt over Matthew's sexual frustration, and to her pronouncements on ``good breeding.'' Ages 10-up. (Nov.)

Gr 6-9-Through the eyes of Rachel Marsh, an indentured servant in the household of John Adams, Rinaldi shows readers the events leading up to the Boston Massacre. Rachel is an orphan in search of a ``place,'' and in the course of her duties as nursemaid to the Adams's children, she comes in contact with many of the movers and shakers of colonial Boston. She also meets a young British soldier who ultimately will stand trial for his life as a participant in the massacre. The story moves along briskly, and details of life in 18th-century Boston are woven into the narrative. The political unrest, the differing views of the patriots and loyalists, and the constant threat of mob violence are also well portrayed. An author's note provides an interesting glimpse of the way a historical novel is constructed. However, Rachel's reaction to being disowned by her thoroughly nasty Uncle Eb is difficult to credit, given her earlier decision to cut him out of her life. Equally murky is her relationship with Private Kilroy; readers will readily understand his frustration. In the end, readers may be carried along more by the drama of the historical events than by the vacillations of the heroine. Entertaining, but not compelling.-Elaine Fort Weischedel, Turner Free Library, Randolph, MA

"Carefully researched and lovingly written."--Kirkus Reviews

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