RFM team members share books they have enjoyed. Maybe you will, too!
Local author Rachel Beanland’s second novel, The House Is on Fire, is based on the true story of the 1811 Richmond Theatre fire and its turbulent aftermath. The worst disaster in terms of loss of life that our relatively young nation had experienced up to that point, seventy-two people died in a fire the day after Christmas, including Virginia’s new governor.
Beanland pored over articles, historical documents, and commemorative books about the fire as she researched and decided which of the true stories she would weave into her fictional account. She ultimately focused on four people who experienced the fire and whose lives were forever changed by it – a stagehand who was working the night of the fire, a young woman who was in the audience to watch the play, and two enslaved people, a young woman and Gilbert Hunt, her uncle.
Beanland effortlessly switches between each of the characters and gives us a glimpse into the social hierarchy of the pre-Civil War era. Reading the names of places and streets that still exist in Richmond today was a good reminder of all that has happened in our city and country since its founding.
Be sure to read Beanland’s note at the end of the book to hear which details and characters were historically accurate and what she filled in from her extrapolation from research. This book and a visit to a local history museum to learn more about Richmond history would be a wonderful gift.
Margaret, RFM Publisher