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Oliver Wiswell

4.2  ·  Rating details ·  396 Ratings  ·  55 Reviews
In Oliver Wiswell, Kenneth Roberts portrays the view of the Loyalists (those colonists who supported the British monarchy) in the American Revolution. Though branded by U.S. history as cowardly traitors, many of them were people of strong convictions and fierce bravery.
Paperback, 836 pages
Published October 8th 1999 by Down East Books (first published 1940)
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Harold Titus
Jan 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"Oliver Wiswell" by Kenneth Roberts is an excellent book. It is a unique Revolutionary War novel in that it presents very convincingly the injustices endured by Americans broadly described as loyalists. These people were both educated, successful professional people and simple country people content to continue to live their lives without being interfered with by others.

Two of the book's themes particularly impressed me. I was astounded at how savagely rebel Americans treated the loyalist popula
Jul 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those interested in the American Revolution
Probably my favorite novel of the American Revolution. As a stickler for historical detail this novel appealed to me for it's reliance on historical fact.

Told from the point of view of a Loyalist, this work represents a departure from the "hero literature" of the American Revolution that still dominates the genre. This work looks at the reason people may have been opposed to open rebellion and considers their struggles to survive what became in the South a civil war.

Roberts also includes the Sie
Mar 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The hardbound edition that I read 40 years ago was 700 pages or so. Do not let that fact deter you from reading it. After all this time, this novel still resonates with me with the richness of its characters and the excitement of its events. Roberts eloquently portrays the Loyalists of the American Revolution as men of principle, who, generally agreed with many of the complaints and issues that their fellow Americans, the patriots, also had. The difference between the two sides only being in the ...more
Jun 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Kenneth Roberts, while a storied curmudgeon and believer in water divining, is an excellent author of historical fiction, covering the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, French and Indian War in his various books, taking the reader from Maine to New York to Wisconsin with great historical accuracy. This particular book tells the story of a Tory family living in Massachusetts and their struggle against the revolutionaries. It is a classic.
Apr 05, 2009 rated it liked it
Kenneth Roberts was great at doing extensive research and writing authentically. But I find his novels difficult to get through. I read them because I'm interested in revolutionary America. But I have to work to get to the end of each book. The last third of this book was the best. It moved quickly. I had to work at the first two-thirds.
Jul 15, 2015 rated it it was ok
Hadn't read any historical fiction in a while, and when I realized that one of Roberts's books was the story of the Revolution from the loyalist side I decided I had to read it. I kind of regretted that, round about page 600 or 700. I mean, I remember liking "Arundel," but that's only barely 600 pages. This is well over 800.
And the pages aren't USED all that well. Roberts spends no time at all setting the scene, he just picks up two days before the start of the war at Lexington and Concord. But
Jan 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Another excellent book"Oliver Wiswell" by Kenneth Roberts. It is a unique Revolutionary War novel in that it presents very convincingly the injustices endured by Americans broadly described as loyalists or Tories. These people were both educated, successful professional people and simple country people. The characters are extremely well developed, and the story is highly enjoyable as well as factual. A great read.
Jan 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone with a mind
The American Revolutionary War from the Loyalist perspective. A history in novel form that makes you feel you are living it.
Jane Lebak
Jun 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gosh, I remember reading this in high school. :-)
Sep 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
What an eye opener this novel is! Foremost, it is a fun read in the style of a classic historical novel. But it is also a reliable history lesson, and quite a myth-bluster at that! From the dozens of cited sources, including first hand accounts, we can see that there is much truth here from which we can see the firm founding for Loyalist views of the First American Civil War.

I am fortunate to have read it this year. I could see so many parallels between the intolerant, inflamed rebels inspired
Mark Lisac
Oct 31, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the best of Roberts' historical novels tells the story of the American Revolution from the point of view of a Massachusetts loyalist and his friends. The story shines with all the powerfully descriptive writing, orneriness and extensive research that Roberts habitually brought to his work. This one apparently took some gumption to produce because of its contrarian view of the quasi-sacrosanct story of the Revolution. What makes it forceful as historical fiction is the finely grained detai ...more
Duncan E.
Feb 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: amrevolution
At age 11 I came across this book in my mother's shelves. From the beginning, I knew I was reading way above my grade level, and yet I felt drawn by this counter-narrative of the war between the Patriots and the British Crown, told from the perspective of those who found themselves caught between loyalty to the Crown and defending themselves from the Patriot threats to their livelihoods, homes and lives. At times the Patriots come across as low-lives who take pleasure in harassing and despoiling ...more
Apr 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
I am a huge Kenneth Roberts fan, but just read this particular book from him. The ONLY reason this doesn't get 5 stars is simply because I compare it to Arundel, and Northwest Passage which I think are just beautiful, historical, "coming of age books"- by far my favorite subject matter. As always, I find the Loyalist perspective of the Revolution to be fascinating, and he follows this point of view through his main character Oliver. I can't help but think that writers for the series "Turn" borro ...more
James Bernheimer
Perhaps the best novel of the American Revolution I have read.
Charlie Shaw
May 22, 2015 rated it did not like it
I really enjoy historical fiction works and this is probably the Best book I have ever read in that category.

Kenneth Roberts had the ability to relate what the people were feeling in his Arundal trilogy from the perspective of the Colonial rebels as related to the way the world felt about them and how they were perceived by the British and the world at that time. I was there with them as an American. I have always joined their cause since they were the ones who rebelled against tyranny and advan
Ray De
Apr 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Oliver Wiswell is the story of the American Revolution from a Loyalist point of view. This book made me understand, at 13, just how much winners write the history books. If nothing else, Oliver Wiswell puts to rest the fiction that Loyalists were all horrible people betraying their country and those rebelling noble, selfless Patriots. The line separating them was fine and, had small changes in history happened, the story could have been very different. My original copy is over 700 pages and, as ...more
Dec 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This tips Kenneth Roberts onto my must-read-everything-ever-written-by-them list. Portrays the American Revolution from a loyalist perspective detailing the atrocities of that civil war committed by the rebels upon their own countrymen - labeling anyone a Tory who questioned the new patriots thus allowing them to be persecuted/imprisoned/murdered and, end-game, seizing their property - and the ineptitude of the British military hampered by class prejudices and more concern for English politics t ...more
Sep 16, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This is the first book I've read by Roberts, and I certainly want to read more. His descriptions were amazingly vivid, his characterization was rich, and the story was very compelling. I realize I will probably sound like an ignorant American, but this book really made me re-evaluate my entire history education. After reading this book, I have come to intensely dislike both those Americans rebelling against British rule and the British leadership opposing the rebellion. American heroes of the re ...more
Aug 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent book albeit lengthy. Roberts is predictable and often his lead characters are tools for his supporting cast. The supporting cast is what makes his books interesting.

His finest is still Rabble in Arms. The historical figures from previous books make cameos. However, the book does not shine when Benedict Arnold
is on the pages, but it is good to see him. Rogers from Northwest Passage makes a very tiny cameo.

The star of the book and best character in Roberts work is Tom Buell.
May 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is 836 pages. 836 pages of little type. So, it is a bit of a commitment to say the least. But being a bit of an American Revolution nerd, I was very intrigued by this book. This book truly puts into context that history is written by the victors. When you think of everything we learn in school about the Patriot cause and the heroics of American citizens, and put it into the context of a Loyalist's point of view you genuinely get a different point of view. I highly recommend this book t ...more
Feb 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a great piece of historical fiction with a perspective seldom written about. The Loyalists in the American War of Independence saw themselves as Americans who sought a relationship with Great Britain and not war. They had the same grievances about unfair taxation. What they didn't have was a need to rebel to achieve resolution. For that they were tarred and feathered and driven out of their homeland. Canada was the beneficiary of this unintended largesse. I know of no other author who wo ...more
Jan 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jenny by: Elisa Oliver
Shelves: classic
This is a very interesting book as it is written from the perspective of a loyalist in the Revolutionary War. Wiswell paints the rebel colonists as "riff raff"--the unsavory characters in society, and the loyalists as the educated and wealthy. He becomes caught in the middle between the British incompetence in running the ward and the attrocities of the rebels. I enjoyed learning a new perspective of the Revoluntionary War and realized again how each side can feel they are int he right. The book ...more
Kerry Kenney
Jun 25, 2008 marked it as to-read
Recommended to Kerry by: David McCullough
David McCullough says: "There should be no hesitation ever about giving anyone a book to enjoy, at any age. There should be no hesitation about teaching future teachers with books they will enjoy."

Hmmm, maybe he said something more particular about these books, I will have to look in my notes. He actually recommends three by this author: The Kenneth Roberts Reader of the American Revolution (Boxed Set): Arundel, Rabble in Arms, Oliver Wiswell, Battle of Cowpens

I have them but I haven't read th
Corbin Bennett
Dec 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Although I love history, I've never been a big historical fiction reader. The reason this book stuck out to me was the fact it was from the Loyalist's point of view. Even though I did read this for school, it did interest me. The story and writing are both great, but I'm positive I would've enjoyed it more if I read it for my own pleasure and didn't have such a short amount of time to finish a lengthy read like this.
Dec 12, 2013 rated it liked it
Interesting. Revolution as seen through eyes of a Tory/Loyalist. makes the point that the Loyalists were mostly the good citizens, business owners, ship owners, professors, lawyers, manufacturers etc. while the rebels were mostly the dregs of America without jobs, morals or work ethic. Also focuses on all the unbelievable mistakes made by British who could have won so many times by simply executing common sense in the battles. If only he had taken 300 pages instead of 900 to do it.
Rosie Crawford
Dec 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
While a bit tedious at times with elaborate war descriptions, it was a unique and interesting look at the revolutionary war through the eyes of a loyalist. Although written in 1940, it was eerily contemporary in 2012. It allowed me to realize once again that history gets to be written by the victors, all politics is a big sham/scam, and war is usually unnecessary.
Oct 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gifted
Roberts unique insight on the revolution war from a loyalist perspective is well-developed and thought out. This old tome embodies the best of historical fiction. Do not hesitate to suggest this for historical book club.
Bill Polson
Apr 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book told from the view of an American Loyalist. Was told by Dr. Gordon Wood that he wished that he wrote as well and he has a Pulitzer. Wood also said that Roberts did a great job on his historical research.
S.E. White
Dec 31, 2011 rated it liked it
Another viewpoint on the American revolution -- the "Sons of Liberty" may have been terrorists oppressing the rights of people who didn't want independence from Britain. And William Howe could have won the war for Britain in an afternoon, and failed to do so.
May 29, 2007 rated it really liked it
One of the best historical fiction writers, as well as the best book on Loyalists in colonial America. (Though I wouldn't recommend delving into its 800+ pages if you don't have serious interests in the subject.)
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Kenneth Lewis Roberts (December 8, 1885 – July 21, 1957) was an American author of historical novels. Roberts worked first as a journalist, becoming nationally known for his work with the Saturday Evening Post from 1919 to 1928, and then as a popular novelist. Born in Kennebunk, Maine, Roberts specialized in Regionalist historical fiction. He often wrote about his native state and its terrain, als ...more
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“All of us know history repeats itself, but mighty few of us recognize the repetition until too late.” 1 likes
“I wouldn't care to shoot my own townsmen over a difference of opinion about politics. Keep 'em yourself if you think you need 'em; but I suggest you'll be better off to put 'em away where you can't get at 'em. The trouble with a pistol is that if you show it, you've got to use it, and once you use it you've committed yourself.” 1 likes
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