Join us for a reading with author Rachel Beanland, who will read from her new novel, The House Is on Fire. A conversation with author Bruce Holsinger will follow. This in-person event will be free and open to the public. We recommend arriving early for the best seating.
About the Book: The author of Florence Adler Swims Forever returns with a masterful work of historical fiction about an incendiary tragedy that shocked a young nation and tore apart a community in a single night—told from the perspectives of four people whose actions during the inferno changed the course of history.
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 one of 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 also 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.
About the Moderator: Bruce Holsinger, a novelist and literary scholar, is the author most recently of The Displacements and The Gifted School, which won the Colorado Book Award and was named a best book of 2019 by NPR. His essays have appeared in The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, Vanity Fair, and many other publications. He teaches in the English Department at UVA and is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship.
The House Is on Fire will be released on April 4. To order the book, please see below for the New Dominion Bookshop book order form or call the shop at 434-295-2552.
"Beanland’s research is meticulous, her characters are well drawn, and her writing is gorgeous. The House Is on Fire is a stunning achievement."
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Rachel Beanland Photo Credit: Tania del Carmen Fernández