Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Varina

Varina. Charles Frazier. 2018. Ecco. 368 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Things fell apart slowly before they fell apart fast.

Premise/plot: James Blake has come to Saratoga Springs in search of answers. He's seeking an audience with Varina Davis, the widow of Jefferson Davis. The year is 1906. Why does he think she'll be able to help? His memories of his childhood are few and far between--a blurry mess. He's recently read in a book that Mrs. Davis took him in--perhaps off the street, perhaps from a mulatto she knew--as a young child. He wants to know who he is--first of all--and why she did it second. Why would the First Lady of the South--this was during the Civil War after all--take in a colored child and raise him with her own children in the nursery, treat him as one of her own? Did she do it out of love? out of pity? as a novelty? Did she see him as human or a pet project?

These two questions: "Who am I?" and "Who is she?" fuel the novel forward. In the book, he's James or Jimmie and she is simply V. The novel is arranged into six or perhaps seven meetings. The story is told in part through dialogue--their conversations together, what their meeting all these decades later brings back to her mind. But the story is also told in part through flashbacks. Readers get very brief sketches of her life throughout her life. It isn't just a story of the war years. And it is definitely not a straightforward account of her experiences during the war and after the war. She clings to no cause and has no agenda in romanticizing the past.

As she seeks to answer his questions perhaps she answers a few of her own as well.

My thoughts: This is a fiction novel. I wish he'd included a note saying if anything in the novel is remotely true or if it's all from his own imagination. What was the real Varina Davis like? Who were her friends? who were her enemies? Did she really battle her in-laws fiercely? Did she really try to make her way to Florida so she could escape to Cuba? What kind of person was she? What kind of legacy did she leave behind? The portrait he sketches is oh-so-human.

Don't expect a traditional historical novel with a straight-forward plot.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 comments:

Post a Comment

I'm always happy to hear from you! To help fight spam, comment moderation has been set up for posts older than two days. Feel free to ask me questions or ask for recommendations!

Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

You should know several things before you contact me:

1) I do not guarantee a review of your book. I am just agreeing to consider it for review.
2) I give all books at least fifty pages.
3) I am not promising anyone (author or publisher) a positive review in exchange for a review copy. That's not how I work.
4) In all of my reviews I strive for honesty. My reviews are my opinions--so yes, they are subjective--you should know my blog will feature both negative and positive reviews.
5) I do not guarantee that I will get to your book immediately. I've got so many books I'm trying to read and review, I can't promise to get to any one book in a given time frame.
6) Emailing me every other week to see if I've read your book won't help me get to it any faster. Though if you want to email me to check and see if it arrived safely, then that's fine!

Authors, publishers. I am interested in interviewing authors and participating in blog tours. (All I ask is that I receive a review copy of the author's latest book beforehand so the interview will be productive. If the book is part of a series, I'd like to review the whole series.) Contact me if you're interested.

Unique Visitors and Google PR Rank

Free PageRank Checker

My Blog List

(Old) Challenge Participants

Becky's Hosting These Challenges

100 Books Project: Fill in the Gaps

Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

  © Blogger template Newspaper III by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP