The General and Julia

S. & S. Audio. Nov. 2023. 7:51 hrs. ISBN 9781797167343. $17.99. F
In Clinch’s (Marley) new work of historical fiction, narrator Gibson Frazier captures the many emotions of the dying Ulysses S. Grant as the ex-president races against time to draft his memoirs (a task in which he is advised by Samuel Clemens). Ulysses hopes that the sale of his memoirs will give financial security to his wife, Julia. Clinch’s novel, and Grant’s memoir within it, focus on the highlights of the couple’s adult life. The novel is capable of being both empathetic to and critical of Ulysses and Julia, illuminating, for instance, the hypocrisy of the former Union Army general after the escape of Julia’s enslaved companion Jule. During the Civil War, Grant was known for being thoughtful to his soldiers (to whom he handed out cigars) and also gracious to his opponents, including treating Robert E. Lee respectfully while negotiating the terms of Lee’s surrender. Frazier’s narration gives life to every fictionalized vignette from Grant’s lives, fully immersing listeners in each scene. His controlled performance is more like that of a nonfiction narrator—level, yet full of feeling—making Clinch’s historical novel feel all the more realistic.
VERDICT Clinch’s new novel should appeal to Civil War buffs and those interested in learning about the inner life of a complex historical figure.
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