Thursday, June 21, 2018

Varina by Charles Frazier

What a writer this guy is! He can craft a sentence or paragraph like nobody's business. 

Charles Frazier's latest novel is a richly imagined account of the life of Varina Davis -- wife of the Southern Confederacy's  first (and only) president and front line witness to history.

Teen aged Varina marries the widowed Jefferson Davis expecting to settle down to life on his Mississippi plantation. When her husband opts for a life in politics, she follows him to Washington where she enjoys success as a popular hostess and access to some of the most powerful names in the government. This life is turned upside down when the South secedes and Varina's husband is appointed president of the Confederacy.

The novel is structured as a series of conversations (interlaced with flashbacks) between the elderly, long-widowed Varina and James Blake, an educated mixed-race free-born man who, for a time during his childhood, lived with the Davis family and was treated like one of the children.

Varina does much to shed light on the varying sentiments that led to the war, as well as the confused residue of emotion afterward. All of the characters are memorable, none more than Varina, who is intelligent and educated beyond the norm of the time. 

As is James Blake, struggling to find his place between the white world and the black,  James Black, once known as Jimmy Limber, who asks the aging Varina if she had thought of him as a pet.

Frazier has brought history to life through the eyes of this remarkable woman. The questions raised of morality versus the law and of the nature of complicity are eternal, and oh, so relevant today.

 Highly recommended.


Barbara Rogers said...

I shall enjoy reading this (as well as many others you've recommended. As a descendant of many southerners as well as a genealogy/history addict, I know I'll enjoy it too.

Darla said...

Thanks for the recommendation; sounds fascinating. I glanced back through your posts and appears all is well with you - yay! :)