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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.
An Amazon Best Book of April 2018: The author of Cold Mountain returns to the American Civil War and imagines the life of Varina Howell, who married a Mississippi landowner with dreams of living a quiet, comfortable life. Fate had other plans, however, as her husband would later become the president of the Confederacy. Unlike Jefferson Davis, Howell had mixed feelings about the war and slavery, a struggle Frazier uses to explore the roots of racism. The novel is at once profound and propulsive, especially as it describes her flight from Richmond, children in tow, Union soldiers on their heels...But no sooner do you sympathize with Howell does she betray her own deep-seated prejudices, ones she will eventually question and try to atone for (to a certain degree). Varina is a fascinating portrait of a complicated woman--one that holds a mirror up to our own time and asks: Do you like what you see? --Erin Kodicek, Amazon Book Review