Review: “Calico Captive” by Elizabeth Speare

Calico Captive was, ironically, Elizabeth Speare’s debut novel, but not her best.

Set later in the mid-eighteenth century, the storyline circumnavigates the frontier of French Canada and the British colonies, a treacherous journey supposedly based on the actual accounts of British prisoners during the French and Indian War.  Kidnapped from their home without warning, British citizens Miriam Willard and her older sister’s family are sold by Native Americans to the French.  Reduced to being no more than slaves in enemy territory, Miriam has to become a pillar of fortitude as she tries to adapt to her new situation and save the broken pieces of both her family and her future.  However, despite the desire to prosper, Miriam has lost none of her fighting spirit or her patriotism, which she will need more than ever to conquer whatever obstacles lie in her path to freedom.

There is no doubt that Calico Captive sparkles with Miriam’s outspoken attitude and the challenges she faces, not to mention the in-depth look at the relations between the French and British at a crucial time in American history.  Nonetheless, regardless of the author’s intricately sculpted story and realistic descriptions, Calico Captive fails to be as captivating as some of her later historical narratives.  Somehow the romance of the story becomes depressing instead of uplifting, and the historical angle of the tale does not really focus on the events of the French and Indian War, only the POWs’ problems.  Nevertheless, Calico Captive has piercing emotion and the timeless experiences of an adolescent who makes her life change.

Original review: Part 4: The legacy of Elizabeth Speare,


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