cover image High Hearts

High Hearts

Rita Mae Brown. Bantam Books, $17.95 (464pp) ISBN 978-0-553-05120-9

If Gone With The Wind had been written from the point of view of soldiers in the midst of battle, it might have read something like this appealing novel that deals with the stupidity of the Civil War and its effect on women. The main character is Geneva Chatfield, daughter of an old Virginia family and horsewoman extraordinaire. When she cuts her hair and follows her husband into battle disguised as a boy, she becomes an outstanding soldier. Her adventures are interspersed with episodes back on the plantation, where her mother Lutie, an old spirited slave called Sin-Sin, and other women must tend the wounded and fight their private battles. Brown (Rubyfruit Jungle, Sudden Death extensively researched this novel; her bibliography includes weather reports and family chronicles from the 1860s. As a result, an obsession with military tactics interferes with her storytelling. Although the chain of events is formulaic and the outcome less than surprising, Brown's style is energetic, her message humane, and her characters unconventional and lively. (May)