The House Is on Fire (Hardcover)

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By the author of Florence Adler Swims Forever, a riveting reimagining of one of early America’s deadliest tragedies, the Richmond Theater Fire of 1811, told from the perspectives of four characters whose lives are irrevocably altered in the aftermath of the inferno.

Richmond, Virginia 1811. It’s the height of the winter social season, the General Assembly is in session, and many of Virginia’s gentleman planters, along with their wives and children, have made the long and arduous journey to the capital in hopes of whiling away the darkest days of the year. At the city’s only theater, the Charleston-based Placide & Green Company puts on two plays a night to meet the demand of a populace that’s done looking for enlightenment at the front of a church.

On the night after Christmas, the theater is packed with more than six hundred holiday revelers. In the third-floor boxes, sits newly-widowed Sally Henry Campbell, who is glad for any opportunity to relive the happy times she shared with her husband. One floor away, in the colored gallery, Cecily Patterson doesn’t give a whit about the play but is grateful for a four-hour reprieve from a life that has recently gone from bad to worse. Backstage, young stagehand Jack Gibson hopes that, if he can impress the theater’s managers, he’ll be offered a permanent job with the company. And on the other side of town, blacksmith Gilbert Hunt dreams of one day being able to bring his wife to the theater, but he’ll have to buy her freedom first.

When the theater goes up in flames in the middle of the performance, Sally, Cecily, Jack, and Gilbert make a series of split-second decisions that will not only affect their own lives but those of countless others. And in the days following the fire, as news of the disaster spreads across the United States, the paths of these four people will become forever intertwined.

Based on the true story of Richmond’s theater fire, The House Is on Fire offers proof that sometimes, in the midst of great tragedy, we are offered our most precious—and fleeting—chances at redemption.

About the Author

Rachel Beanland is the author of the novel Florence Adler Swims Forever. She is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and earned her MFA in creative writing from Virginia Commonwealth University. She lives with her husband and three children in Richmond, Virginia.

Praise For…

“The world is about to be on fire with the publication of THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE. This is a propulsive, pulse-pounding read—one that grabbed hold of me and didn’t let me go until the very last page. It is the kind of book you finish with a sigh, and hope against hope there is a sequel coming.”—Kathleen GrissomNew York Times bestselling author of The Kitchen House and Glory Over Everything

“A riveting story that places the reader at the very heart of a devastating, true-life tragedy. Beanland has clearly done her research, and the effect is both heart wrenching and eye-opening, as unlikely heroes and unforgivable cowards add to the rich mosaic of a community torn apart in a single night. Enthralling.”—Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author of The Magnolia Palace

“Propulsive. Rachel Beanland’s The House Is On Fire pulls you into a major moment in American history via the lives of four vividly drawn characters.”—Farah Ali, author of People Want to Live

“Beanland has an uncanny skill for capturing the voices of a range of people at a time in history when only a few had their experiences recounted, making THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE an enriching and elucidating blend of both historical fact and fiction.”—Natalie Jenner, author of The Jane Austen Society and Bloomsbury Girls

“If ever you doubt the interconnectedness of human beings, Rachel Beanland's The House Is On Fire will remind you. In a hundred deftly crafted moments, large and small, the survival of one character hinges on the integrity and courage of another--sometimes unbeknownst to them both. Beautifully constructed and sensitively told, this novel will wring out your heart and make you grateful for it.”—June Gervais, author of Jobs For Girls With Artistic Flair 

"I whipped through this book as if the pages themselves were on fire. Heart-pounding and suspenseful, this is unputdownable historical fiction at its finest. In THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE, Rachel Beanland gives us a front-row seat to a terrifying nineteenth-century calamity and the fascinating cast of villains, heroes, and everyone-in-between who must confront it and cope with the aftermath. These characters have been seared into my memory and this story will stick with me." —Elise Hooper, author of Angles of the Pacific 

Praise for Florence Adler Swims Forever:
“A perfect summer read.…  What's remarkable is not how quickly the book hooked me, but how it held my attention during and after reading…. I simply couldn't put it out of my head. I finished in two days…. I felt awe.”—USA Today

"Beanland’s novel draws the reader in. The situation she describes is poignant and the characters she develops win us over with their private grief. Beanland is particularly good at conjuring 1930s Atlantic City, with its small family-owned hotels yielding to larger, more commercial palaces. The historical moment is fraught as American Jews try to save relatives in an increasingly untenable Nazi Germany. We see cruel obstacles to immigration, and the growing chasm between European Jews and their increasingly prosperous American counterparts. This is a book about the American dream. The dream is not without costs, and the dreamers are not immune to tragedy." —New York Times Book Review

"Beanland deftly weaves various historical events and themes: the rise of the Nazi regime, family secrets, the struggle between classes, religious tensions, sexuality, and familial love. Yet it works, and this novel is as close to unputdownable as they come. Based on a true story—beautifully described in the Author’s Note—Florence Adler Swims Forever is a memorable debut." —Amazon Book Review

"Rachel Beanland is a writer of uncommon wit and wisdom, with a sharp and empathetic eye for character. She'll win you over in the most old fashioned of ways: She simply tells a hell of a story." 
Rebecca Makkai, Pulitzer Prize Finalist for The Great Believers

Product Details
ISBN: 9781982186142
ISBN-10: 1982186143
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: April 4th, 2023
Pages: 384
Language: English