"Faithful" is the first story I've read by Bill Offutt, but it won't be my last. A full-blown historical narrative with intimate detail of setting and action and a love story without intimate detail, it reminds me of the best cable writing during this current Golden Age of TV dramas. This was written with the realism of someone who's been there, who lived with the folk and spoke their language.
I believe that Bill Offutt is a time traveler who spent several years in London and Baltimore during the 1770s--how else would he so casually know the vocabulary and the daily concerns and the sensory details of the time? He shows me a street a character is walking down; I notice the various shops and what is in their windows; I hear the sounds the hob-nailed boots make on the stones and the creak of the wagon next to me. I smell the sweet aroma of bread baking and the foul odor of men in their second year without a bath. I feel the rustle of smooth silks. Blood soaks a shirt and pants? No matter. If these are the only clothes, they can be worn for another six months if need be. Hopes and promises are not given freely, and they are not redeemed quickly. Patience is a part of everyday life, and Bill Offutt reflects that patience in his telling.
This is one of the very best written stories I have read on SOL. Excellent plot, realistic characters, detailed settings, ebb and flow of pacing. It's not an exciting swashbuckler, but it does have strong moments of drama. Lives change. People grow up. The main characters lose what is important to them, but they carry on, and Bill Offutt lets us see, through their troubles, how they are being tempered into strong steel.
Very few typos (and I can be a nit-picker); most of what seem to be misspellings turn out to be words I didn't know (such as "snow" for a ship--which I suspected was supposed to be "scow." Nope, snow was right.) I'm glad I read this on my computer so I could easily google words.
I loved to wallow in the virtual sensory experiences of everyday 1774 in this densely written tale. Each page takes far longer to read than vapid page-turners.
Ah hah. I see there are more Bill Offutt stories to read, so I'd best be about it.