Monday, April 26, 2010

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing. Traitor to the Nation. Volume #1 The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson

A book that captured many awards including the National Book Award for Young People, and a Printz Honor. This unique book, would not, in my opinion, appeal to the average reader. It takes place around the time of the Revolutionary War and the language in the book is similar to language used at that time. Much of the novel is founded it fact although it has a very gothic feel to it.

I read this book with a group of high school teachers and staff and many could not finish the book due to the way it was written. The author wrote the book in eighteenth century grammar and diction and it had an authentic historical style to it. I did finish the book and plan on reading the second, but the writing did take some getting used to.

The story is about a slave named Octavian. It is common for slave owners to give their slaves sophisticated Greek and Roman names. Octavian is an experiment although he doesn't know it till later in the book. The experiment has to do with the equality of the races. It is very thought provoking.

Then comes the Pox Party. During the Revolutionary period people experimented with inoculation. Small Pox was an epidemic, killing massive amounts of people and they knew that if you were exposed to it and lived, you built up a immunity. Inoculation in many cases was done by cutting the skin and infecting the person with a hair or thread from a pox victim. Many got sick and died this way. It is after the Party that Octavian's life changes in a dramatic way and the early battles of the war are fought. The story ends but leaves you wanting to find out what happens next in Octavian's journey.

If you love history and you can get past the writing style, you will appreciate the creativeness and the important social issues of the time this book represents. Heck, the issues haven't changed much in over 200 years. Give this book a try, you just might enjoy it.

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE Octavian Nothing, both volumes. I taught vol. 2 to a class of college undergrads in fall 2009, and they really seemed to like it (eventually, once they got past the difficulty of the language). Volume 2 is absolutely astonishing to read, in every way, and really made me (and my students) re-evaluate the way we think about American history.