Tuesday, February 3, 2009

100+ Reading Challenge

Hello fellow readers!  I've found a couple of gems in my quest to complete the 100+ Reading Challenge over at J. Kaye's Book Blog!  I'm up to 14 books so far this year! 

I can’t say enough good things about Robert Hicks’ The Widow of the South.  I’ve read good reviews and I’ve read some tirades as well but I personally loved this book.  I liked this book just as much as I did Geraldine Brooks’ Year of Wonders and that is possibly my favorite book of all time!  

Hicks’ tale centers on the small town of Franklin, Tennessee and one of the bloodiest battles of the American Civil War that took place there on a November day in 1864.  He draws history to fictionally fill in the gaps in the life of Carrie McGavock

wife of a Franklin plantation owner.  On that day, 9,000 casualties (Confederate and Union combined) resulted from the day’s battle and her house was requisitioned as a hospital.  I won’t go into detail but Civil War medicine was a nasty business on many levels.  Over half those who died did so from sepsis and disease.  

Over 1700 Confederate dead were hastily buried in a nearby field after the battle.  When the owner of the field decides to return it to cultivation, Carrie and her husband move all the soldiers to their property, creating the only private Confederate cemetery.  So, all of that is the real story.  Hicks’ takes this framework and imagines a life for Mrs. McGavock, her family, and some of the soldiers that you will find in no history book yet it provided me a glimpse into what that time might have been like, unpleasant as it no doubt was.  It is not an easy topic, nor is Mrs. McGavock all that easy to like but she does mature into a character I can respect.  There is a great Author’s Note at the back with some additional information on the Battle of Franklin as well as archival photos of the McGavock plantation, Mrs. McGavock herself, and the cemetery. 


The bookgroup I'm a member of chose The Widow’s War for our February title and I had never heard of it or the author, Sally Gunning, beforehand.  I’m always excited to pickup something new and unheard of…reading wise (and from my perspective obviously, sorry all you Sally Gunning fans out there!).  

What a great, strong female character we have in Lyddie Berry!  She loses her husband to the whaling industry on page 1 so I don’t really feel like I’m giving anything away by telling you that. It’s the aftermath of this that warrants the title.  Lyddie is now at the mercy of man, and I don’t mean that in a mankind sort of way.  I specifically mean that gender.  She cannot own the home she shared with her husband; that has now been deeded to her closest male relative, her son-in-law Nathan Clarke.  He wants to sell, but that would leave her entirely dependent on hi

m and Lyddie’s daughter is clearly not happy with Lyddie in the house.  There are consequences if she stays, consequences if she goes, and consequences if she marries and Lyddie is becoming tired of the consequences of men’s decisions for her and about her.  Can one woman gain independence in such a system?  Why would she even want to?  

The events of this book take place nearly 100 years before the Seneca Falls Convention in New York kicked off the women’s rights movement.  Lyddie Berry’s existence after her husband died is a sobering example of the plight of women before the women's rights movement reached that crisis point.  I am glad to live a life in which I don’t remember a time when women were not allowed to vote or get just about any job they want to have.  There is the pay issue going on now, evidenced by President Obama’s signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act just a few days ago, but we’re always moving forward.  I can hardly wait to hear the discussion surrounding this title when my bookgroup meets next week! 

Happy Reading!


Jenne said...

Looks like I have a few new books to add to my shelfari account! Thanks! Keep up the good work.

About EOL said...

I believe The Widow's War in particular will make a great book club choice. I am surprised that this is the first I've heard of it. I'm going to read her other book, Bound.