Now We Shall Be Entirely Free
By Andrew Miller. (Europa Editions, 416 pages, $19.)
British author Andrew Miller takes readers back to simpler times, 1809, the Napoleonic Wars. Simpler times, yes, but no less dangerous.
Captain John Lacroix returns home to England from Spain, barely alive after surviving a retreat after a French assault and a horrible incident in a remote village. His men massacred the villagers there. His role is suggested but not explained until near the book's end.
An English corporal and a Spanish officer are tasked by a representative of the Junta Suprema to track Lacroix down and ensure that justice is done. Again it's unclear exactly what that means for a long time.
The two threads of the story are Lacroix's wanderings and his pursuers' difficulties in finding him. When he's ordered to report back to his regiment, Lacroix goes on a search for peace first. He is not necessarily fleeing from anyone initially.
There are fights, missteps, hard journeys on horseback, in coaches and on ships. Nothing violent or sexual is detailed too graphically — just suggestions offered of what occurred.
Instead, Miller keeps readers engaged in other ways. Characters are richly developed. Places are meticulously described. The dialogue is plausible, authentic, with a few Spanish and Gaelic words sprinkled in. The tale builds to a climax, a reckoning, if you will.
The ending offers a twist or two and, even after 400-some pages, you want a little more. Not all story lines are neatly tied up at the end. But all in all, this is escapism at a compelling level.
Lacroix is hard not to like, despite his flaws, and you almost unknowingly start caring about his fate and keep turning pages. Not much more an author could desire.