Fast-paced yet wonderfully detailed ... Cleverly, the adventures and privations of Ned Whalley and his son-in-law, Will Goffe, are set in counterpoint to the trials of Will’s wife, Frances, as she hides in London with five young children, relying on the charity of her religious community as she faces plague, poverty and the great fire that will later destroy much of the city.
Gripping ... A belter of a thriller. It will be compulsive reading for those who loved An Officer and a Spy, Harris’s book about the Dreyfus affair. Like that novel, the research is immaculate. A chewy, morally murky slice of history is made into a tale that twists and surprises. The characters are strong and we care about their predicament. The story stretches over continents and years, but the suspense feels as taut as if the three main characters were locked in a room with a gun.
Mr. Harris has respected real events and dates, yet Ned and Will’s American journey leaves plenty of room for the historical novelist ... Here he brings his customary skill and zest to fleshing out what did happen with 'what might have happened. Act of Oblivion delivers a galloping adventure, with a novel of ideas craftily packed into its saddlebags ... Act of Oblivion offers well-staged hideouts and escapes, ambushes and skirmishes, amid a wilderness adventure that recalls The Last of the Mohicans. It also sketches a colorful panorama of 1660s New England ... Mr. Harris deftly switches perspective between the runaways and their hunter.
Act of Oblivion could have been a dusty, distant, long-winded yarn. Instead, Harris delivers a gripping, well-paced tale rich in color, suspense and adventure ... At various intervals, Harris flashes back to the English civil war and the last moments of a dethroned king. He serves up equally memorable depictions of plague, the Great Fire of London and a stormy voyage. But when he cuts back to the chase and charts the progress of three desperate men, he has his reader truly hooked.
As the German poet and philosopher Novalis remarked more than two centuries ago, novels arise out of the shortcomings of history. Harris sets out to plug the gaps in the record, and succeeds remarkably well. He’s writing fiction, but he treats the few available facts and the more plausible theories with respect, and skilfully extrapolates from them ... The novel’s narrative structure moves to and fro between them, ultimately leading to a brisk if slightly implausible conclusion ... It’s not only the hunt that interests Harris: it’s also everything that led to it ... He deals with this in a series of flashbacks, which include some of the most dramatic scenes of the novel ... Harris underpins the book with substantial research and writes in unobtrusively effective prose ... This is Harris at his best, which is very good indeed.
A riotously enjoyable and thoroughly modern manhunt ... Act of Oblivion is a book rich in the illuminating details that bring the past to life. While the language is modern, the book is given texture by the friction of scratching wigs and rough leather boots ... One of the things that gives this book such a ring of authenticity is that Harris has constructed his novel almost entirely from factual material. The words may be imagined, but the architecture of the plot and the identities of the vast majority of its characters are drawn from Harris’s extensive research ... As Nayler arrives in America, the pace of the novel increases, the sense of an inevitable meeting propelling the narrative forward. The chapters, paragraphs, even the sentences become shorter as the colonels seek to evade their monomaniacal pursuer. As always with Harris, there’s a delicious sense of being in the hands of a master, of watching as the pieces of the narrative puzzle fall into place.
Densely populated ... Harris has done his research ... But the evocation of period detail doesn’t always convince ... None of this interferes with the lucidity of the storytelling or its suspensefulness, and each of the main characters has a satisfying degree of moral ambiguity. There’s a topical message, too, about the lasting wounds of ideological division.
Three cheers for Robert Harris, an author who can always be relied upon to serve up novels that perfectly balance intellectual heft with pulse-raising entertainment ... The pace falters once the trail goes cold but Act Of Oblivion offers aresonant history of both England and America as they struggle to forge a myth of nationhood out of opposing ideologies.
... [a] nail-biting climax ...This is by far Harris’s best book since An Officer and a Spy, which dealt with another great national division: the Dreyfus case. He has produced a ripping page-turner that breathes all the complexities and moral nuances of the Civil War period. There are no heroes here, just human beings struggling to make their way through the chaotic backlash of a civic cataclysm. If there is a moral, it is a simple one: sometimes it really is better to let sleeping dogs lie.
Harris crafts an epic of historical fiction, weaving together a tale of pursuit, betrayal, and madness ... an engaging read. Harris’s journalistic background shines through in his writing style. Short, engaging paragraphs that pull the reader through the story are prevalent throughout the narrative. Harris’s writing is clear and concise; he is not loquacious, rather, he is quite to the point, in a way that launches the reader through the story, and keeps the pages turning ... a plot-driven novel. While attention is given to character, the story itself is what drives the narrative. The reader gets small insights into characters, but the majority of pages is dedicated to the chase itself ... An engaging, readable, and detailed story, Act of Oblivion provides its reader with a truly gratifying experience. While the story relies heavily on historical events, the reader does not need to be familiar with the time period in order to be swept into the story. Harris presents all pertinent details and information clearly. Act of Oblivion is sure to be enjoyed by all readers and fans of the genre.
For a writer of supposedly masculine thrillers, Harris is very interested in women’s history ... Indigenous American history breaks through fascinatingly as well ... This is Harris’s great strength, the cave scene is quiveringly tense. Hollywood-ready. Many others are equally cinematic ... Above all, this is a novel that asks big historical questions ... You could read this as a pure thriller, and it is one of Harris’s most compellingly paced to date.
Robert Harris’ novels are known as page turners, and Act of Oblivion takes this signature feature to the next kinetic level ... The narrative has such velocity that at times it feels like a sprint to keep up with the main characters, who are running for their lives. Rarely does Harris allow the reader to pause for breath ... Aside from the fast-paced prose, a feature of Harris’ novels is thorough historical research. Act of Oblivion is no exception ... There are many electrifying scenes in this fast and furious historical thriller that keeps the reader in suspense until the last page.
Act of Oblivion unfolds in a manner that would satisfy the 17th-century Puritans who populate the story: slowly, conservatively, and in consultation with scripture ... That’s not a bad thing, though neither is it terribly riveting. Instead, the pleasures of this intelligently crafted novel — the author’s 15th — lie in how deftly Harris conjures a long-ago period likely unfamiliar to the non-royalists among us ... Harris is in no hurry here. He’s willing to let Act of Oblivion unspool slowly, trusting readers will stick with Whalley and Goffe through their protracted, prayerful exile in the future United States. That Nayler’s endless pursuit is far less breakneck than the opening image suggests is a reminder never to judge a book by its cover.
It will come as no surprise to readers familiar with Harris’ work that this is a splendidly written historical novel. Harris really is a joy to read, and it’s interesting to see how he adjusts his writing style with each book to reflect the story’s time period (this one is less ornate than his books set in ancient Rome but more ornate than his WWII novels). Another top-flight effort from a master storyteller.
Harris again turns a historical event into a canny page-turner ... Harris humanizes the hunter and the hunted, and brings to life an obscure chapter in colonial American history. This further burnishes Harris’s reputation as a talented author of historical suspense.
Gripping ... The deeply researched story is the author's brilliant reimagining of real historical events, with sympathetic characters and a compelling plot. Thoroughly enjoyable with some cringeworthy descriptions. Readers will not pine for days of yore.