Act of Oblivion

Act of Oblivion
(c) 2022 Robert Harris
477 pages

The puritan despot Cromwell is dead and the English king restored, but the balance books of history are not yet straight. There remain in England still breathing the men who presumed to put their king on trial, and who doubled down on their arrogance by executing him for crimes against ‘the people’. The Privy council is engaged in a hunt for the remaining regicides, and for one of their agents in particular — Nayler — it’s personal. He himself fought in defense of the King during the civil war, and it was at a celebration of Christmas Mass that he was arrested by the puritan fanatics, the stress of which caused his beloved wife to miscarry and die. Nayler will not rest in his hunt for two regicides in particular, even if he must comb the American colonies for years. Such is the premise of Act of Oblivion, which begins as an exciting thriller, as two would-be martyrs flee from England and seek shelter in the more Puritan of the American colonies. Unfortunately for the reader, and for Mssr. Nayler, the colonies are large and wild enough that the scent is lost, and most of the second half of the book sees the targets simply hiding in a basement (for years), and the increasingly dispirited Nayler resigned to killing time in England, with no real enthusiasm for life. Harris does his best to liven things up by having one of the regicides give us flashbacks from the Civil War, allowing us to witness the rise of the tyrant Cromwell, but things don’t get exciting again until the last chapter. Still, the story can’t help but command interest, spanning two continents and featuring some interesting moments in American and British history, like the Great London fire and “King Philip’s War”, also known as the First Indian War.

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Citizen, librarian, reader with a boundless wonder for the world and a curiosity about all the beings inside it.
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8 Responses to Act of Oblivion

    • That title was in Harris’ Further Reading list! I’m looking at an English Civil War book you reviewed. I don’t remember very much about the issues that prompted the war or Charles’ judgment. One tyrant king is easier to forgive than an army of puritan tyrants, so I rooted heartily for Nayler here. ๐Ÿ˜†

      • Cyberkitten says:

        As usual with these things it was all about Power and Money. When we ‘did’ the Civil Wars in High school I instinctively sided with the Roundheads. One of my favourite words is ‘Interregnum’….. Ah, to be a Republic….. [lol]

      • Bernard Cornwell commented in an interview I watched years ago that he saw history as being a prolonged struggle between cavaliers and roundheads (or stoics and epicureans, I suppose), and as far as he was concerned the cavaliers were “a helluva lot more fun”.

        Republics don’t last long. They invariably turn into monarchies with less style and more pretentiousness. Witness the present state of the USA….our choices last time were between an egotistical man-child and a doddering old fool!

  1. Cyberkitten says:

    Funnily I was watching a YouTube thing just today that put forward the idea that the Republican Party are actually Monarchists…. He made a fair bit of sense actually… [lol]

    The Roundheads were on the right path… but I always liked the Levellers and people like them. The Anarchist cry of No Gods, No Masters….. That kinda thing appealed as soon as I heard it. The Civil Wars threw up a LOT of interesting political ideas. Shame that most of them are long forgotten.

    • Sounds fairly partisan. The imperial presidency has grown more through the tenure of Wilson, Roosevelt, LBJ, etc than through the Republicans, with exceptions like Nixon and W. Bush — not because Republicans are more virtuous (hah!) but because they’ve been in office less. I say this as someone who loathes both and hasn’t voted for either since 2004. ๐Ÿ˜‰ There were some conservatives who were sympathetic toward explicit hierarchy and aristocracy — Russell Kirk would be one, possibly Bill Buckley as well. Adams believed that aristocracy was inevitable and that the point of the Senate was to confine them to the one house where they could serve a useful function without becoming dominant.

      • Cyberkitten says:

        Oh, it was very partisan [grin] but I still got his point. The Democrats seem to be OK with the idea of an *elected* imperial President. The Republicans think that once their guy is in position you just need to replace him when he dies without bothering the electorate with choices….

      • Sounds like we’ve moved beyond partisan into pure propaganda. XD

        BTW, I bought a book a couple of nights ago that might interest you — it’s a biography of Jimmy Hoffa. I was going to wait until I had a few other books to do a series on American labor, but I was watching footage of Hoffa squaring off against his highness Prince Robert of the Clan Kennedy and decided to go ahead and go for it. Hoffa has fascinated me since Jack Nicholson played him.

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