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The new novel from the number one bestselling author of Cold Mountain - a stunning portrait of the devastation left by the American Civil War, as seen through the eyes of a woman who played a part at the heart of it.
Sooner or later, history asks: which side were you on?
'Moving' Sunday Times
'Here's a woman of the Civil War to outshine Scarlett O'Hara' The Times
'Beneath the chilling, photogenic story, the writing remains beautiful' - Independent
With her marriage prospects ruined in the wake of her father's financial decline, teenage Varina Howell decides her best option is to wed the much-older widower Jefferson Davis, with whom she expects a life of security as a Mississippi landowner. When he instead pursues a career in politics and is appointed President of the Confederacy, it puts Varina at the white-hot centre of one of the darkest moments in American history - culpable regardless of her intentions.
As the Confederacy prepares to surrender and she finds herself friendless and alone, Varina and her children escape Richmond. With her marriage in tatters and the country divided, they travel south, now fugitives with 'bounties on their heads, an entire nation in pursuit'.
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.