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The Deadliest Fire in History - an Editorial Review of "1871: Rivers on Fire"

Book Blurb:

1871: Rivers on Fire is part historical novel, and part a love story with interweavings of triumph, treachery, and heartbreak. The story is set at the time of the deadliest fire in the recorded history of the world -- on the same night as one of the most infamous destructions of a city by means of fire.

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Author Bio:

Paul is an author of books, poems, progressive essays, and scientific journal articles. His book of poetry, Sonnets of Love and Joy, was published in August, 2023 by Kelsay Books. His most recent book of fiction was Alice’s Adventures, published in 2022 by Kelsay Books. His historical novel, 1871: Rivers on Fire, was self-published in 2021. His most recent non-fiction book was Disposable Americans, published in 2017 by Routledge.

Editorial Review:

Having perused the tomes penned by Paul Buchheit, traversing an expansive expanse of genres. This particular literary offering outshines his previous endeavours, manifesting in its prose an exceptional prowess of expression and character evolvement. The descriptive language imbues the very scenes with vitality, an explosion of hues and impact. Characters flourish in intricate detail, acquiring manifold dimensions and a multifaceted spectrum of sentiments and dispositions. The author's portrayal of the Chicago and Peshtigo conflagrations cloaks them with vivid imagery and a profound sense of pathos. My solitary lament is that the delineations of these fiery catastrophes have left me yearning for a deeper understanding of their antecedents and the local retorts to their fiery aftermath. Preceding the ignition and tumult, the narrative unfurls a cultural and social panorama, encapsulating the variegated facets of American society in 1871.

In this unique literary creation, a curious confluence of fiction and non-fiction transpires. The reader is transported through time into a 19th-century milieu, ensnared in the vicissitudes of a rapidly burgeoning Chicago, the nation's veritable epicentre. While the chronicles are set prior to the fiery holocausts that consumed Chicago and the upper Midwest, a different, more insidious fire smoulders beneath the surface. The recitation of the conflagrations is visceral, an adroit encapsulation of the trepidation preceding a firsthand confrontation with the ravages of fire. The aftermath unfolds, a staggering, yet inexorable denouement.

Herein unfolds the saga of two fires, and a wealth of tender kindling to satiate one's literary appetite. On its surface, "Rivers on Fire" is a fictitious portrayal of deadly infernos that swept through the United States, ravaging regions in proximity to and within Chicago, circa 1871. In actuality, the narrative is an intricate tapestry interwoven with romance, a cornucopia of historical references from a turbulent epoch in American history, and an abundance of neuroscientific theories.

On the whole, this story offers a captivating narrative. The author adroitly weaves the tapestry of the era's societal ebbs and flows into the overarching story, rendering the reader's immersion seamless. However, the extensive foray into the intricacies of neuroscience and the development of theory may appear unduly ponderous to those uninitiated in the realms of science. The delineation of the characters Liz and Robert merits commendation, for their affection for one another resonates through the written word, eschewing the clichéd tapestry of star-crossed lovers. This affords their relationship a tangible authenticity. The concluding act, replete with intensity and sorrow, though not to my personal predilection, adheres to a discernible direction. The author's extensive research is evident, rendering this narrative an eminently credible odyssey.


“1871: Rivers on Fire” by Paul Buchheit receives four stars from The Historical Fiction Company


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