Charles Frazier. Ecco, $27.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-06-240598-2
Varina Howell Davis (1826–1906), wife and widow of Confederate president Jefferson Davis, is an inspired choice as heroine for Frazier’s riveting fourth novel (following Nightwoods). “Being on the wrong side of history carries consequences,” he writes, and the events of Varina’s life propel a suspenseful narrative. A quotation from her letters, “my name is a heritage of woe,” is an apt description of the life depicted: Varina, called “V” throughout, is married at 18 to the much older Davis; becomes the mother of six children, only one of whom survives her; flees the collapse of the South as a desperate fugitive with a bounty on her head; and, later, is forced to earn a penurious living as a journalist. She is a flawed but fascinating woman—educated beyond the interests of most southern belles of her time, she is an avid reader of classical literature, fluent in Greek, and possesses a quick intelligence. Frazier alternates V’s chapters with those of James Blake, an orphaned black boy rescued from the streets of Richmond and raised with V’s brood. Frazier’s interjection of historical detail is richly informative, and his descriptions of the natural world of the South are lyrical. While V’s emotional reserve and stoic narration keep her from becoming a fully vibrant character, this is a sharp, evocative novel. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/19/2018
Release date: 04/01/2018
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-06-240601-9
Ebook - 288 pages - 978-0-06-240600-2
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Audio book sample courtesy of HarperAudio
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