Tree of Liberty Moves Slower than Congress

In  The Tree of Liberty, Elizabeth Page uses the family of Matthew Howard as a lens through which to view American history from 1754 through 1806.

The Howards had kin and connections throughout the colonies and among the political elite of the Revolutionary era. Page doesn’t have to invent situations to show the political turmoil of those days.

Page follows Matt as he grows up hearing tales of the frontier, adoring Colonel Washington and going to school with Tom Jefferson.

Matt marries a Tidewater aristocrat, Jane Peyton, who instinctively distrusts “the common people” as much as Matt champions them. Their political differences carry on through two more generations.

The novel really isn’t about the Howards, though.  The main character is really the American political system, the “tree of liberty.”

Page’s novel moves almost as slowly as the actual events she describes.

I felt as if I should care, that reading the novel was good for me, but that didn’t make me enjoy it.

The novel might have a salutary effect on Americans fretting over the slowness of the Iraqi government to achieve democracy, but, quite honestly, reading about the growth of the tree of liberty is about as exciting as watching paint dry.

The Tree of Liberty
By Elizabeth Page
Farrar & Rinehart 1939
973 pages
1939 bestseller # 8
My Grade: C +
© 2009 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Published by

Linda G. Aragoni

I make big ideas simple for learners. In eight sentences, 34 words, I taught teens and adults to write competently. Now I'm writing guides to turn willing volunteers into great nursing home visitors.

2 thoughts on “Tree of Liberty Moves Slower than Congress”

  1. This is one of the best explanations of what happened during the yrs before the Revolutionary War ever written, and as a novel, not an history book. The Howards are fictional, the story line is an historical timeline. Considering America was created out of a movement of people away from Europe over a few centuries, the time frame captures what is a simple blink of time. It is an A+ read if you actually care about the historical record of the lead up to the Revolutionary War, or care to read books on history.


    1. I think we’ll have to agree to disagree over the value of this book: We are looking at The Tree of Liberty with different standards.

      I’ll concede I should have given the novel a B- by my grading scale because of the history value, but I couldn’t rate The Tree of Liberty as highly as you do. I want a novel to deliver a story (and whatever else it has to offer) through interesting people.

      Thanks for sharing your perspective. And, if you’re in the US, a happy Independence Day to you.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.