Publication Date: September 1, 2000
It’s late summer 1793, and the streets of Philadelphia are abuzz with mosquitoes and rumors of fever. Down near the docks, many have taken ill, and the fatalities are mounting. Now they include Polly, the serving girl at the Cook Coffeehouse. But fourteen-year-old Mattie Cook doesn’t get a moment to mourn the passing of her childhood playmate. New customers have overrun her family’s coffee shop, located far from the mosquito-infested river, and Mattie’s concerns of fever are all but overshadowed by dreams of growing her family’s small business into a thriving enterprise. But when the fever begins to strike closer to home, Mattie’s struggle to build a new life must give way to a new fight—the fight to stay alive.
I was first introduced to Anderson’s writing in a children’s lit class in college—we read the picture book Thank You Sarah! The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving. It was one of the first non-fiction picture books I had ever read, and I loved it. Years later (I won’t say how many, but I’m not that old!) I read the first two books in her Seeds of America trilogy, Chains and Forge and absolutely loved them. I’ll have to review them for you after I read the third book Ashes. It just came out a few months ago.
Needless to say, I had high hopes for Fever 1793. Sadly it didn’t win me over the way her other historical fiction has. That is not to say it isn’t a great read. It just didn’t resonate with me. I’m not sure I can exactly pinpoint why—the premise is good, the setting complex and rich, the characters have the opportunity to develop and mature. I
will say that the parts I loved the most were those involving the Eliza and the Free African Society. People mistakenly believed that blacks couldn’t get yellow fever, and so the members of the Free African Society dedicated their time to helping fever victims, black or white.
All in all, it was a good read, and I would recommend it to historical fiction lovers, or those with in interest in early America, or those who like to read about mosquito born illnesses (is that even an interest category? Somehow I can’t see Barnes and Noble ever getting an infectious diseases section.) But for the rest of us, I’d say go ahead and borrow this one.