Act of Oblivion: A Novel (Hardcover)
From the bestselling author of Fatherland, The Ghostwriter, Munich, and Conclave comes this spellbinding historical novel that brilliantly imagines one of the greatest manhunts in history: the search for two Englishmen involved in the killing of King Charles I and the implacable foe on their trail—an epic journey into the wilds of seventeeth-century New England, and a chase like no other.
'From what is it they flee?'
He took a while to reply. By the time he spoke the men had gone inside. He said quietly, “They killed the King.”
1660 England. General Edward Whalley and his son-in law Colonel William Goffe board a ship bound for the New World. They are on the run, wanted for the murder of King Charles I—a brazen execution that marked the culmination of the English Civil War, in which parliamentarians successfully battled royalists for control.
But now, ten years after Charles’ beheading, the royalists have returned to power. Under the provisions of the Act of Oblivion, the fifty-nine men who signed the king’s death warrant and participated in his execution have been found guilty in absentia of high treason. Some of the Roundheads, including Oliver Cromwell, are already dead. Others have been captured, hung, drawn, and quartered. A few are imprisoned for life. But two have escaped to America by boat.
In London, Richard Nayler, secretary of the regicide committee of the Privy Council, is charged with bringing the traitors to justice and he will stop at nothing to find them. A substantial bounty hangs over their heads for their capture—dead or alive. . . .
Robert Harris’s first historical novel set predominantly in America, Act of Oblivion is a novel with an urgent narrative, remarkable characters, and an epic true story to tell of religion, vengeance, and power—and the costs to those who wield it.
About the Author
Robert Harris is the award-winning author of fourteen internationally bestselling novels, including Fatherland, Enigma, Archangel, Pompeii, The Ghost Writer, The Fear Index, An Officer and a Spy, Conclave, Munich, The Second Sleep, and V2, as well as his trilogy of novels about the Roman statesman Cicero Imperium, Conspirata and Dictator. His novels have been translated into 40 languages, and seven have been adapted for the screen, including most recently Munich, a Netflix feature film starring Jeremy Irons as Neville Chamberlain. Harris earned a degree in English from Cambridge University; before becoming a full-time novelist he worked as a reporter for the BBC, was political editor of the Observer, and a columnist for the London Sunday Times and the Daily Telegraph. He is married to the writer Gill Hornby and lives in England; they have four children.
"Act of Oblivion delivers a galloping adventure, with a novel of ideas craftily packed into its saddlebags.” — The Wall Street Journal
“Harris delivers a gripping, well-paced tale rich in color, suspense and adventure.” — Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Robert Harris brings his signature storytelling power to an exciting manhunt through colonial America. Act of Oblivion pulls off historical fiction's greatest challenge, transporting readers into the heart of a formative era with momentum and suspense. A twisty labyrinth of espionage and intrigue.” — Matthew Pearl, New York Times bestselling author of The Dante Club and The Taking of Jemima Boone
“Robert Harris is, simply put, masterful.” — Karin Slaughter, New York Times and international bestselling author
“Harris (Munich) 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.” — Publishers Weekly
“You could read this as a pure thriller, and it is one of Harris’s most compellingly placed to date. You could read it as a piece of intelligent historical immersion. I think it is more; I think it is his best since Fatherland.” — Sunday Times
"Act of Oblivion is 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 thriller 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." — The Times UK
“Gripping . . . Thoroughly enjoyable. . . . [This] deeply researched story is the author's brilliant reimagining of real historical events, with sympathetic characters and a compelling plot.” — Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
“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. . . . Another top-flight effort from a master storyteller.” — Booklist
“Harris demonstrates his talent for bringing history to life with a taut new tale of faith and vengeance. . . . The raw emotions of the characters and the issues that drive human dissent make this a worthwhile read.” — Library Journal
“Fast-paced . . . . wonderfully detailed . . . . clever. . . .” — New York Times Book Review
“A tale that grips from start to finish. It’s a remarkable achievement.” — Metro
"A gripping revenger's tale. . . . 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." — Financial Times
"It is easy to forget that Act of Oblivion is a fictional work based on actual events, which is a testament to Robert Harris’ writing. The book provides not only significant amounts of European history, but also thrilling suspense over Nayler’s pursuit of his final two targets . . . . Learning European history was never this much fun in school!" — Bookreporter
"Veteran actor Tim McInnerny delivers a masterly narration of Harris’s novel. He truly inhabits the characters, his voice and manner finely tuned to the personality and convictions of each: Goffe, a fanatical, millenarian Puritan; Whalley, more practical and ultimately disillusioned; Nayler, smoothly menacing, but prey to depression . . . this production is perfect." — Washington Post
"[Robert Harris is] writing fiction, but he treats the few available facts and the more plausible theories with respect, and skillfully extrapolates from them. . . . Harris underpins [Act of Oblivion] with substantial research and writes in unobtrusively effective prose. . . . This is Harris at his best, which is very good indeed." — The Guardian
"If you like your page-turning popular fiction at the more intelligent end of the spectrum, you could not do better than this." — The Telegraph
"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 Daily Mail
"A riotously enjoyable and thoroughly modern manhunt. . . . Act of Oblivion is a book rich in the illuminating details that bring the past to life. . . . 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. Act of Oblivion is a fine novel." — The Observer
"Act Of Oblivion . . . marries painstaking research with vivid historical recreation and leaps of imagination." — Daily Express
"Robert Harris’ novels are known as page turners, and Act of Oblivion takes this signature feature to the next kinetic level. . . . 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." — Sydney Morning Herald
“Harris’s new chase thriller is a tour de force.” — i
“I admire Robert [Harris] boundlessly for his originality as well as superb narrative skill.” — Max Hastings, author of Inferno
“Robert Harris never fails to dazzle me . . . . his research is superb, his characters intrinsically interesting and his writing crisp and elegant. . . . Describing this book as a chase is to do it an injustice. It has elements of social history as well as being a truly moving family tale. . . . You can read Harris as a mystery author or a fine historian with equal pleasure or you can just read him for the sheer joy of it, as I do. This will definitely be one of my best books of the year." — The Globe and Mail
“Harris, deft as ever, weaves a hefty amount of historical fact into the narrative—politics, religion, colonial life, family ties—as well as themes of forgiveness and reconciliation.” — New Statesman
“Act of Oblivion is more than just a page-turner. . . . Harris’s denouement goes for theatrical effect and down-to-the-wire suspense.” — London Review of Books
“Harris skilfully weaves pieces of his characters’ pasts giving the story depth and credibility. His research is comprehensive. . . . Act of Oblivion is a clever novel, building slowly and showing more than the hunt for two fugitives.” — Sunday Times (South Africa)
“Robert Harris is the master of the high-quality historical thriller. History is not simply a backdrop in his novels, but an interlocutor with our own age. . . . Harris displays an impressive grasp of the historical context without taxing his readers by showing his ‘workings.’” — Church Times
“There is satisfaction in the well-made novel, and Robert Harris’s Act of Oblivion. . . [is one of the] best-made and therefore most enjoyable new novels I read this year.” — The Scotsman
"A lightning-quick thriller, the tension cranked right up throughout, and Harris' 17th century New England is so real you can almost smell it." — Tim Weaver, author of Blackbird
"The master of the intelligent thriller." — Daily Telegraph
"Harris is a master of historical fiction, a compelling author who brings to life the recent and ancient past." — Times Literary Supplement
"A tale that grips from start to finish. It's a remarkable achievement." — Metro
"Master storyteller Robert Harris has forged history anew, melding fact and fiction." — RTÉ
"Harris spins an exciting tale which I hope will leave you hungry for more." — Inside History Magazine
"Lucid and full of suspense." — Spectator
"In his new thriller, Robert Harris wrests [a] fascinating period back from its unjust oblivion, showing how closely its complex landscape of constitutional crises and Puritan politics played out in new unregulated media resonates with us today." — The Critic?
"A drama so involving and nerve-wracking, you can barely turn the pages fast enough. Historic!" — Saga Magazine
"What Harris does here is nothing short of masterful." — Irish Times
"Pacy and tense, and the pungently evoked past offers up some shrewd present-day parallels." — Mail on Sunday