New York Burning: Liberty, Slavery, and Conspiracy in Eighteenth-Century Manhattan

Jill Lepore, Author, Beth McDonald, Read by HighBridge Audio $29.95 (0p) ISBN 978-1-56511-968-0
Juilliard graduate and Broadway actress McDonald offers a wry and meaty interpretation of Lepore's intense social history of the Manhattan slave uprising of 1741. That winter, black and Spanish slaves allegedly set 10 fires around the city, resulting in widespread panic and a draconian roundup of any slave who was rumored to be even tangentially involved in the conspiracy. McDonald does a fine job with the text, which is heavy on trial transcripts and newspaper reportage. Her voice and Lepore's descriptions create an almost visceral portrait of the events, including-note to the faint of heart-some shocking, CSI-worthy descriptions of the ensuing executions, which included burning at the stake. McDonald sometimes butchers the pronunciation of the Spanish names mentioned in the proceedings, but in general her rendering is spot-on, and her voice is by turns animated, disapproving or conspiratorial. The first two hours can be a bit abrupt and confusing, as this abridgment has omitted much of the background information that helped print readers make sense of the large cast of characters. However, this condensation makes for an exciting recital, and by the second half, listeners will be on the edge of their seats.
Reviewed on: 08/01/2005
Release date: 08/01/2005
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