Book Review: Varina by Charles Frazier (2018)
Bronze Anthology Book Review
Varina by Charles Frazier (Historical Fiction 2018)
From the author of “Cold Mountain,” comes a historical fiction novel about Jefferson Davis’ wife, Varina. This book is similarly set during the Civil War, as Varina is the wife of the Confederacy’s president. The novel largely focuses on Varina’s life leading up to and following the war. Long before the war, Varina was a young wife to an older Southern landowner and in the aftermath of the war, Varina was a mother fighting to protect her family from Federal retribution. Like all historical fiction novels and without further research, it’s unclear the extent of liberties the author took when portraying Varina, but it is clear that she lead a precarious life both before and after the Civil War.
In Three Words
The book starts and ends with Varina (Jefferson Davis’ wife) being reacquainted with a boy, now a man, from her past. It is unclear the exact purpose of this reconnection, other than as a platform for her to recount her memories. There is also an awkward friendship between Varina and a young woman that serves no purpose. From her conversations with this man, she reminisces about her history, from her adolescence through her later years. Her recounts often skip around, going from her marriage to the Civil War to her adolescence and back again. It often takes a second to put the time and the place into context. Unfortunately, the story only briefly touched on her life during the war, but instead spent a great deal of time on her plight thereafter.
Like “Cold Mountain,” the author does not use quotations marks to identify when people are speaking; instead he uses dashes, which require extra vigilance to delineate text from conversation. Unfortunately, though, the storyline and writing fall short of the allure of “Cold Mountain,” despite both novels taking place around the War of the Rebellion.
Our Bronze Star Rating
It is a good read for anyone willing to put in the time to learn more about Varina and her experiences leading up to and following the Civil War; as mentioned, there is not a lot of coverage around her time during the war. It is not a good read for anyone interested in fast-paced, clear-cut reads. This book often moves slowly and as previously mentioned, bounds between present and different times in the past. Overall, it is a three bronze star read; minus a star because of the annoyance of not using quotation marks and minus another star because it fell short of the expectations set by “Cold Mountain,” since it is not a book that I would read again.