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Book Review: An Uprising in Rome: 1849

An Uprising in Rome: 1849. Richard F. Novak. Independently Published, May 17, 2019, Trade Paperback and E-book, 209 pages.

Reviewed by Wayne Turmel.

Nothing makes a reader of historical fiction happier than discovering a period of history or a character that we knew nothing about yet makes for a great story. Such is the case with Richard Novak’s new novel. 

An Uprising in Rome: 1849 is a well-researched, exciting novel about the adventures of an American sculptor, Charles Grimes. The naïve middle-class man goes to Rome to study sculpture and gets caught up in the political upheaval associated with Giuseppe Garibaldi's attempt to forge a single Italian nation from the city-states and smaller kingdoms that existed for hundreds of years.

As Grimes goes from apprentice to journeyman sculptor, and ultimately to the man responsible for the marble work inside the U.S. Capitol and the statue that crowns the dome, the author delivers an exciting tale of art, politics, and courage. Along the way, there's Grimes’s romance with a beautiful Italian revolutionary and friendship with the famous American journalist Margaret Fuller. He joins the local militia as an apolitical American facing the forces of France and the Pope himself.

The novel is full of fascinating glimpses into the politics of Italy and the way people lived during that time. It also offers insight into the way Americans—with such a young country—sometimes viewed the world through naïve eyes. While the dialog occasionally bows to the need for exposition, the descriptions and battle scenes are well-written, and the tale never fails to move along at an enjoyable pace.

Novak's work as a sculptor, and his knowledge of and passion for art, infuses the page and delivers a tale that, for most of us, is unfamiliar yet relatable. It's a quick, rewarding read. 


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