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Varina
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Varina
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Sooner or later, history asks, which side were you on?In his powerful new novel, Charles Frazier returns to the time and place of Cold Mountain, vividly bringing to life the chaos and devastation of...
Sooner or later, history asks, which side were you on?In his powerful new novel, Charles Frazier returns to the time and place of Cold Mountain, vividly bringing to life the chaos and devastation of...
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  • Sooner or later, history asks, which side were you on?

    In his powerful new novel, Charles Frazier returns to the time and place of Cold Mountain, vividly bringing to life the chaos and devastation of the Civil War

    Her marriage prospects limited, teenage Varina Howell agrees to wed the much-older widower Jefferson Davis, with whom she expects the secure life of a Mississippi landowner. Davis instead pursues a career in politics and is eventually appointed president of the Confederacy, placing Varina at the white-hot center of one of the darkest moments in American history—culpable regardless of her intentions.

    The Confederacy falling, her marriage in tatters, and the country divided, Varina and her children escape Richmond and travel south on their own, now fugitives with "bounties on their heads, an entire nation in pursuit."

    Intimate in its detailed observations of one woman's tragic life and epic in its scope and power, Varina is a novel of an American war and its aftermath. Ultimately, the book is a portrait of a woman who comes to realize that complicity carries consequences.

About the Author-

  • Charles Frazier is the author of Cold Mountain, an international bestseller that won the National Book Award and was adapted into an Academy-Award winning film by Anthony Minghella. He is also the author of the bestselling novels Thirteen Moons and Nightwoods.

Reviews-

  • Library Journal

    November 1, 2017

    In this fourth novel, Frazier revisits the territory that made Cold Mountain a blockbuster best seller, taking us into the heart of the Confederacy with the story of Jefferson Davis's wife, Varina. She married Mississippi landowner Davis for security, then found herself plunged into politics and war; the novel shows her gathering her children at war's end and fleeing south from Richmond, with "bounties on their heads, an entire nation in pursuit. With a 500,000-copy first printing; a ten- to 12-city tour.

    Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    February 1, 2018
    A new novel of the Civil War and its aftermath from the author of Cold Mountain (1997, etc.).This novel begins in 1906 in upstate New York, where an elderly woman is staying at an establishment that is part hotel, part hospital. A visitor arrives, and his request for information about his own past takes readers back in time to another world. The visitor is a freed slave named James Blake. The woman is Varina Davis--who, as Jefferson Davis' wife, was once the first lady of the Confederate States of America. As she moves back and forth in her own life story, V recalls scenes from her childhood in Natchez, Mississippi, and her marriage to a widower more than twice her age. After leaving home, she's never settled for long. Her husband's election to the Senate means a move to Washington, D.C., and his ascendancy to the leadership of the Confederacy takes her to Richmond. After the war, she takes cheap rooms in London. Varina is certainly a fascinating figure. She is well-educated, her own political sympathies do not align perfectly with those of her husband, and, after being impoverished by the war, she launches a career as a journalist in New York--writing being one of the only ways for a woman of her station to earn money. Readers who helped to make Frazier's first novel a huge bestseller may cheer his return to the War Between the States. Whether or not his fourth book will earn the author new fans depends largely on whether or not there's a fresh audience for his heavily lyrical--sometimes turgid--style. While there are moments of dry humor--Mrs. Davis is nobody's fool--this reads more like a novel its heroine might have read in the late days of the 19th century than something written in the 21st. The most contemporary touch is the disjointed timeline, but even that isn't entirely effective. The resulting text isn't so much a coherent narrative as a series of vignettes.Intriguing subject. Uneven execution.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    February 19, 2018
    Varina Howell Davis (1826–1906), wife and widow of Confederate president Jefferson Davis, is an inspired choice as heroine for Frazier’s riveting fourth novel (following Nightwoods). “Being on the wrong side of history carries consequences,” he writes, and the events of Varina’s life propel a suspenseful narrative. A quotation from her letters, “my name is a heritage of woe,” is an apt description of the life depicted: Varina, called “V” throughout, is married at 18 to the much older Davis; becomes the mother of six children, only one of whom survives her; flees the collapse of the South as a desperate fugitive with a bounty on her head; and, later, is forced to earn a penurious living as a journalist. She is a flawed but fascinating woman—educated beyond the interests of most southern belles of her time, she is an avid reader of classical literature, fluent in Greek, and possesses a quick intelligence. Frazier alternates V’s chapters with those of James Blake, an orphaned black boy rescued from the streets of Richmond and raised with V’s brood. Frazier’s interjection of historical detail is richly informative, and his descriptions of the natural world of the South are lyrical. While V’s emotional reserve and stoic narration keep her from becoming a fully vibrant character, this is a sharp, evocative novel.

  • New York Review of Books "Charles Frazier's feeling for the Southern landscape is reverential and beautifully composed."
  • Washington Post "Perfectly evocative . . . A finely wrought novel that will reward rereading. Elegiac without being exculpatory, it is an indictment of complicity without ignoring the historic complexity of the great evil at the core of American history."
  • The New York Times "Beautifully rendered...Frazier in this, his fourth novel, lyrically resurrects the blasted but hauntingly beautiful Southern landscape just after the war...Varina Davis becomes a marvelously fallible character, complicated enough to stand on her compromised own."

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