Certainty by Victor Bevine: Book Review

A big thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me with an electronic copy of this book and for inviting me to be a host on this tour.

Historical FictionCertainty, Victor Bevine, historical fiction, Newport, World War I
Released October, 2014
320 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: TLC Book Tours


Plot Summary of Certainty:

As World War I wound down, sailors at the Naval Training Station in Newport, Rhode Island accuse a beloved clergyman of “sexual impropriety”, kicking off a sensational trial.

My Thoughts on Certainty:

Based on a true story, Certainty is not only a suspenseful legal thriller, but a portrait of the social dynamics of our country at the close of WWI (also right before Prohibition). I jumped on the opportunity to participate in this blog tour because historical fiction is one of my favorite genres and I’ve also had great luck with “fiction based on true crime” this year (The Wife, The Maid, and The Mistress and Monday, Monday). 

Towards the end of WWI, Newport was a mix of wealthy summer residents who owned the famous “cottages” and tens of thousands of Navy men who suddenly had nothing to do but get rowdy. Prostitution, drinking, and gambling were rampant and the Navy worried about containing their men. Consequently, the Navy enacted a rule that certain “deviant” behaviors were not allowed within a small radius of a Naval base. Homosexuality was considered a “deviant” behavior and it’s under this interpretation of the rule that the story of Certainty unfolds.

I found this time in history fascinating to read about. The general public really was horrified by homosexuality and considered it “unspeakable”. The military and the government took enforcement of the sodomy laws seriously (a convicted homosexual could get 30 years in Leavenworth!). There are a few characters in the book who don’t believe “the fairies” (as homosexuals were frequently called in 1919) should suffer for their particular persuasions and Certainty has them slogging it out against powerful organizations in a situation where what’s morally “right” doesn’t exactly line up with the law.

How tragically simple it was to convince young men to do wrong by telling them it was right. Millions of recent war dead could testify to that.

Beyond the social dynamics element, Certainty is a suspenseful legal thriller. I love a good courtroom drama and Certainty absolutely delivers, including a moment that made me think of this…

A Few Good Men Code Red

Did you order the Code Red?!!!!

Though Bevine covers very serious topics, I enjoyed the occasional levity his writing style brought to an otherwise heartbreaking story.

The simple fact was that the queer parties were fun. There was always good hooch, which was getting harder and harder to come by with the onset of full Prohibition, and the latest records were always playing on the Victrola.

My one complaint is that Bevine sometimes veered off into philosophical mumbo jumbo, but luckily it didn’t happen too often…

It was a single truth, he knew with sudden certainty, out of which all the rest grew like limbs on a tree, and the truth was this, that separation of any kind, of one place or person from another, of desire from its fulfillment, of secret held from secret revealed was simply a matter…of Time, which if it flowed at all, did so in both directions at once.

Certainty is a great choice for fans of historical fiction, social commentary, and courtroom dramas. 

TLC Book Tours

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  1. The philosophical stuff would turn me off but the rest of the book sounds fascianting!

    Posted 10.27.14 Reply
  2. I read this as well, and I need to post next week. Interesting book . . . I did keep thinking that maybe I’d have liked it more as a movie than as a novel!

    Posted 10.30.14 Reply
  3. Thanks for being a part of the tour!

    Posted 11.1.14 Reply
  4. Learning about the how strict military law was on sodomy and that they would endorse a group to entrap men was a big eye-opener for me. But I agree this was a great courtroom drama with lots of guessing until the very end.

    Posted 11.14.14 Reply

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