The House Is on Fire (Large Print / Library Binding)

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Staff Reviews

Based on the actual burning of the Richmond, Virginia, theater in 1811, this wonderful novel is told from four points of view. What would it have been like to be in a tinderbox with men stepping over you to escape? Beanland does a wonderful job of describing the horrific fire and what transpires afterwards with victims and people affected by the disaster: a white woman who steps up to help with the wounded, a Black man who goes to the theater in search of a young white woman who taught him to read and is tended to by his partner, a backstage hand who probably started the fire (only because he was forced to cut corners by a nefarious boss), and a young Black woman who decides that the fire can be her cover to escape the plantation. It's great historical fiction!

— Valerie

April 2023 Indie Next List

The House is on Fire captures the early 1800s in the United States through the lens of a theater fire in Richmond. Beanland reconstructs the story of the fire while discussing slavery and abuse, womanhood, misogyny, and child labor.”
— Kyle Churman, Werner Books, Erie, PA


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 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.

Product Details
ISBN: 9798885786157
Large Print: Yes
Publisher: Thorndike Press Large Print
Publication Date: June 28th, 2023
Language: English