I’m always tremendously excited whenever I get my hands on a new novel by Boston Teran. I first fell in love with the author’s work several years ago when one of my book clubs picked The Creed of Violence as our monthly selection. The book was a revelation—intelligent and beautifully written with a compelling plot and unforgettable characters.
I quickly discovered that the same could be said of any of Teran’s other novels, and that continues to be the case with the author’s latest book, How Beautiful They Were. This novel completes Teran’s “The Defiant American Series,” which began with The Cloud and the Fire and A Child Went Forth.
The three novels are set in the middle of the Nineteenth Century, when the United States was still being formed and when the future of the nation could have realistically taken any number of turns. The books are not chronological in order, but together they paint a wonderful portrait of the forces shaping the nation at that time and raise several critically important questions about the country’s past, present and future.
This latest novel is set in the world of the theater and begins in London where an actor named John James Beaufort is forced to flee the country for reasons that I won’t give away. Like so many others of his day, he makes his way to New York and there attempts to reinvent himself as an actor named Nathaniel Luck.
With a disfigured playwright named Robert Harrison, Luck forms Colonel Tearwood’s American Theatre Company. The two assemble a company of actors and begin searching for audiences. In particular, they hope to write and produce plays that will speak to the everyday lives of the working-class people who are their principal audience. The enterprise enjoys some success, but the company and the individual actors, Luck in particular, are soon confronted by the brutal realities of the American economy and society of the day and by the secrets that they all carry with them.
It’s impossible to do justice to a book this good. The characters are so finely drawn that the reader cannot help but become caught up in the ebb and flow of their lives. You share the joy of their triumphs and your heart breaks when tragedy overwhelms them. This is a very wise book with much to say about the theater and the world beyond it. Indeed, all the world is a stage, and this book is as beautiful and will be as enduring as the characters who inhabit it. Five stars are not nearly enough.