Charles Frazier’s “Varina”

VarinaVarina by Charles Frazier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book. I admit that it took me a while to finish because I had some things get in the way, but after I had heard Charles Frazier on The Book Show on WAMC, I knew I had to read it.

Perhaps it’s because my father was from the south (my mother was from the north, and I grew up in the Boston area), and I was always interested in southern history, and perhaps it’s because I always wanted to learn the perspective of southern women. However, I think the main reason I loved this book has to do not only with the subject, but also with Frazier’s treatment of the subject–his incredible approach at describing parts of southern scenery, the devastation of the Sherman scorched-earth policy on rich and poor alike, the confusion that emancipation wrought to slaves as they were freed, among other things. His writing is on a plane to which most of us writers can only aspire. I also enjoyed the fact that he brought Saratoga Springs and Albany into the picture, which is where I live now.

Varina’s real life was tragic, and yet, this strong, resourceful, political, intellectual woman held her head high as she observed the results of what she considered to be a senseless war, brought by men on a country she and so many women loved, and in which they could not vote.

I urge anyone who has any interest in today’s history, especially in the treatment of women and the history of the treatment of African-Americans, the evolution of the Civil Rights movement, to read this historical novel. The exquisite writing will wrap you in the tragic cloak of motherhood while simultaneously demonstrating just how strong the women of this country–and the country that seceded from it–were during one of the most horrific times in history.

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