Devotion

Julia Oliver, Author University of Georgia Press $24.95 (214p) ISBN 978-0-8203-2874-4
Romantic fiction and historical research coexist uneasily in this novel of Varina Anne ""Winnie"" Davis, the daughter of confederate president Jefferson Davis. Oliver's third novel (after Music of Falling Water) sets out to show that Winnie, who died at 34, was more than the original ""Daughter of the Confederacy""-she was also a protofeminist, a novelist and journalist, and a lusty, imaginative woman. Winnie's story is told through excerpts from her (imaginary) notebook and through the testimonials of other narrators, including her former fiance and a servant girl. Oliver is at her best in creating a psychological portrait of the Davis family, traumatized by its drastic changes of fortune; she vilifies Winnie's neurotic mother and plausibly portrays her sister, Margaret, as dripping with jealous contempt. But Oliver strains for authentic diction and relies on hoary archetypes of Southern literature-the steel magnolia, the tragic mulatto, the happy slave. Though Oliver may not succeed in proving that Winnie Davis's life and spirit should establish her as a heroine of history, she certainly proves that Davis, whose life began too late and ended too early, was singularly qualified as the ambassador of a lost cause.
Reviewed on: 10/01/2006
Release date: 10/01/2006
Genre: Fiction
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