Get your first book for $9.99 with code BREEZE at checkout.

Join today!

We’ll make this quick.

We’ll make this quick.

First, enter your email. Then choose your move.

By pressing "Pick a book now" or "Pick a book later", you agree to Book of the Month’s Terms of use and Privacy policy.

Get your first book for $9.99 with code BREEZE at checkout.

Join today!
undefined

You did it!

You did it!

Your account is now up to date.

get the appget the app

Our app is where it’s at.

Unlock our Reading Challenge, earn prizes, and get notified of new books on our app.

Our app is where it’s at.

Unlock our Reading Challenge, earn prizes, and get notified of new books on our app.

get the ios appget the android app

Already have the app? Explore here.

get the ios appget the android app
The House Is On Fire by Rachel Beanland

Historical fiction

The House Is On Fire

by Rachel Beanland

Excellent choice

Excellent choice

Just enter your email to add this book to your box.

By pressing "Add to box", you agree to Book of the Month’s Terms of use and Privacy policy.

Ear-nings rewards

Ear-nings rewards

0/5

You’re 5 audiobooks away from a free credit!

Quick Take

Sweeping but intimate, four lives and a community are irreparably changed in this story of a 19th-century theater fire.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Multiple_Viewpoints

    Multiple viewpoints

  • Illustrated icon, Literary

    Literary

  • Illustrated icon, Real_life_characters

    Real-life characters

  • Illustrated icon, Graphic_Content

    Graphic violence

Synopsis

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 in 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.

Content warning

This book contains scenes depicting sexual assault.

Why I love it

One of the reasons I love reading historical fiction is the opportunity to be transported into the heart of a period of history or shocking event I knew little about before I opened the cover. Rachel Beanland checks every box in her latest novel, set in Richmond, Virginia in 1811 and centered around a tragic theater fire that took seventy-two lives.

In haunting yet beautiful prose, The House Is on Fire depicts the fateful sequence of events from four perspectives: Sally, a recent widow with an uncertain future; Cecily, a teenage slave whose terrible treatment at the hands of her owner’s son renders her far older than her years; Jack, a young stagehand desperate to perform on the stage; and a blacksmith named Gilbert whose brave actions that evening are discounted due to the color of his skin. Told over four harrowing days, the narrative structure remains taut as the multiple points of view reveal the depravity—as well as heroism—of those affected by the fire.

I bow in admiration to Beanland for all the research this book must have involved, but that’s only the start. Her dazzling ability to imbue real-life events and figures with passionate detail can be found on every page, and the surprising twists of this story will keep you turning pages faster and faster.

Historical fiction
Lady Tan’s Circle of Women
The Women
The Ballad of Jacquotte Delahaye
Miss Morgan’s Book Brigade
Spitting Gold
The Great Divide
The Storm We Made
The Disappearance of Astrid Bricard
What We Kept to Ourselves
The River We Remember
The House Is On Fire
Magic Lessons
The People We Keep
The Attic Child
Hester
The Final Revival of Opal & Nev
The Nightingale
The Secret Book of Flora Lea
Did You Hear About Kitty Karr?
Peach Blossom Spring
Hang the Moon
Sisters in Arms
The Postmistress of Paris
Summer of '69
All the Light We Cannot See
The Four Winds
Independence
The Library of Legends
The Night Tiger
Queen of Thieves
Pachinko
The Glittering Hour
The Summer Wives
The Great Alone
The Age of Light
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
The Paris Hours
The Golden Hour
Manhattan Beach
The Wonder
The Japanese Lover
The Witches
Saint Mazie
The Marriage of Opposites
Church of Marvels
The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock
Jacqueline in Paris
Don't Cry for Me
The Christie Affair
Bloomsbury Girls
Bronze Drum
Historical fiction
View all
Lady Tan’s Circle of Women
The Women
The Ballad of Jacquotte Delahaye
Miss Morgan’s Book Brigade
Spitting Gold
The Great Divide
The Storm We Made
The Disappearance of Astrid Bricard
What We Kept to Ourselves
The River We Remember
The House Is On Fire
Magic Lessons
The People We Keep
The Attic Child
Hester
The Final Revival of Opal & Nev
The Nightingale
The Secret Book of Flora Lea
Did You Hear About Kitty Karr?
Peach Blossom Spring
Hang the Moon
Sisters in Arms
The Postmistress of Paris
Summer of '69
All the Light We Cannot See
The Four Winds
Independence
The Library of Legends
The Night Tiger
Queen of Thieves
Pachinko
The Glittering Hour
The Summer Wives
The Great Alone
The Age of Light
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
The Paris Hours
The Golden Hour
Manhattan Beach
The Wonder
The Japanese Lover
The Witches
Saint Mazie
The Marriage of Opposites
Church of Marvels
The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock
Jacqueline in Paris
Don't Cry for Me
The Christie Affair
Bloomsbury Girls
Bronze Drum