Publisher and Publication Date: Ecco/HarperCollins. April 2018.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Audience: Readers of Civil War stories.
Varina is known as “V” in the book. She was the wife of Jefferson “Jeff” Davis, the president of the Confederacy during the Civil War.
The time period for the book begins in 1906 and reflects back. She shares her childhood, courting and marriage to Jeff, raising children, the war years, escape, the years they lived apart, and other memories of life.
The narrator of the story is the author, Charles Frazier. However, a man named James Blake seeks her out and interviews her, for the benefit of how his story came to be. Some of the story is V telling Mr. Blake her life story.
In the opening pages V has to work to remember. It is apparent she is bitter, cynical, and doesn’t want to remember the Civil War period.
Usually when I begin reading a book if it doesn’t catch my attention and hold it in the first 100 pages I stop. I persevered in this book. It was the last quarter of the book that I loved. The best line is on page 341. And, one of my favorite parts of the book is her brief visit with Oscar Wilde, pages 333-338.
The last quarter of the book is when V loosens the veil of transparency over her heart. She is older, has time to reflect, and the people who were dear to her are dying. At this point in life, V’s memories, and with the wisdom that comes from age, makes her an interesting character.
I found a few lessons in the book:
•Judgements made of people because of what we think we know about them. Whether it is the color of their skin, socio-economic status, education, political stance, or wealth; we think we know the person and either hate them or love them based on what we know.
•People, and some more than others, are much more complicated and diverse than first thought. And since we cannot read someone’s mind (fears, insecurities, sorrows, and motives) we should be very slow to judge.
•In the span of time, the thoughts, feelings, and words about people often develop differently, and even become a distant memory.