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All Our Yesterdays

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

How fortunate that James Oliver and Janet C. Robertson, both published authors and he a University of Connecticut history professor, too, should have been the buyers of the eighteenth century house in Hampton, Connecticut that stored 150 years’ worth of books, pamphlets, newspapers, letters, invitations, and playbills, among other memorabilia. For instead of destroying the lot, the Robertsons have created a book that traces the Taintor family and interprets their actions in a broader social context that begins in the 1790s.

The Robertsons alternate family members’ words with narrative, a method that reflects original voices while increasing readers’ understanding through commentary. Compiled chronologically, this tightly written, superbly edited saga records the nation’s wars while chronicling such daily traumas as birth and death and detailing the attitudes with which people led their lives.

Two brothers, Solomon and Roger Taintor, and their wives, were the first family members to occupy the house. The brothers established themselves as leading citizens, and later their sons together attended Yale. Readers learn about student riots at the university, about the rites of dating almost two hundred years ago, and about how generations of small-town citizens tended to preserve their economically frugal but emotionally generous values in the face of a changing world.

The Robertsons write, “We have tried, with respect for the realities of their lives, to find our own roots in the Taintors and in Hampton and to understand that other people’s pasts can be all our yesterdays.” They succeeded.