Ecco: HarperCollins. Apr. 2018. 368p. ISBN 9780062405982. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062406002. F
OrangeReviewStarFrazier reprises his Cold Mountain success, this time focusing on a less familiar historical figure from the Civil War: Varina, wife of Confederate president Jefferson Davis. Varina's unconventional opinions and attitudes, contemporaneously perceived as less than fully enthusiastic toward her husband's lost cause, probably accounts for this gap in popular knowledge. Frazier tells her story in the form of an imagined oral memoir, in which she recounts her story to a black man, "Jimmie Limber," whom she rescued from the streets of Richmond, VA, when he was abandoned as a toddler. Focusing on events following Lee's surrender when she and her children fled the Confederate capital, and bouncing between pre- and postwar events, this narrative approach succeeds after a slow start. The unveiling of Varina's sad story piques the reader's curiosity. Much of what Frazier imagines is consistent with the incomplete historical record surrounding Varina, and he fills in the blanks to reveal a powerful personality that, while of her times, has much to say to us today in respect of how the impact of great events on individuals can affect the history of those events.
VERDICT Highly recommended for general readers as well as anyone interested in American history. [See Prepub Alert, 10/5/17.]

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