cover image Saturnalia


Paul Fleischman, Fleischman. HarperCollins, $15.99 (113pp) ISBN 978-0-06-021912-3

In this rich and alluring historical novel, Fleischman ( Joyful Noise , Graven Images , Paths of the Pale Horse ) examines the attitudes of Puritan society, while focusing on the White Man's treatment of Indians and servants. At the center of the story is William, a Narraganset Indian who has been taken under the wing of Mr. Currie, a kind-hearted printer. Others in the cast include neighboring Bostonians: a hypocritical tithingman, a self-important wigmaker trailed by his not-so-loyal manservant, and a woodcarver haunted by his past. The action takes place around the time of Saturnalia, the day on which ancient Romans traded places with their slaves. Although few townspeople practice the pagan ritual, on that day many experience ironic twists of fate. With exceptional skill, Fleischman evokes an aura of days gone by through a series of interrelated vignettes. Offering lyrical prose, resonant themes and a tragicomic tone, this story will captivate those who seek a challenging and enlightening read. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)