I picked up this book at the library because of how much I enjoyed Cold Mountain, also by Frazier. The title character was the wife of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Both books portray the end of the civil war. This story is told by an African American who visits Varina long after the war, in Saratoga Springs. He was rescued by Varina when he was a child being beaten by a shopkeeper for vagrancy. Varina took him in and kept him with her own children until her party was captured by the Yankees. They were trying to make their way to Florida and from there, on to Cuba. I found the story somewhat hard to follow since it doesn’t flow from beginning to end but goes backwards and forwards to cover most of Varina’s life, at least from her teenage years to old age. I had never even heard of her although I of course assumed that Jefferson Davis had a wife and children, since most men of his time, especially elected officials, did. She was quite remarkable in her own right, if this story is to be believed. While not written as non-fiction, it draws on facts, how much is real and how much invented we do not know from this tale alone. I was struck again, as in the prior book Cold Mountain, at the breakdown of society in the aftermath of the war, how it was impossible to tell where anyone’s loyalties lay. How desperate most people were and yet how willing to risk their own lives for a principle many still believed in. Despite the confusion of the time-line I enjoyed the book very much and look forward to the next title by this author.
The new book by the former President and Patterson is of course a thriller. I’m not usually a fan of this type of work, it goes too fast for my taste. I like novels that are more complex but for what it is, it was a good tale. It kept me guessing until the end. A bit far fetched, or at least I hope it is. The President has to go under cover to save the country from cyber crimes so devastating that the United States would be reduced to decades of poverty, its infrastructure destroyed, and possibly all out class warfare. He knows there is a traitor in his cabinet but he doesn’t have any idea of who it might be. The attackers are part of a jihadist group but they can’t do it alone, which means that some state government is involved. I hope that since the former President is writing about this type of scenario, steps have already been taken to prevent the disaster he describes in the book. Worth the read, you’ll be finished in no time.
A truly enjoyable book, the Outlander, by Gillian Adamson tells the story of a young widow’s flight from the avengers of her husband’s murderer. From the very beginning of the book the widow is declared to be the murderer, but just what happened is not clear. The widow doesn’t flee immediately but waits until the murder of her husband is discovered and she is blamed. At the beginning of the novel she is being pursued by her husband’s brothers, two red headed twins who become almost evil itself throughout the chapters of the book. Against all odds the widow manages to escape, leaving the reader hopeful at the close of each terrifying, breathless effort that she will find civilization and someone to help her. This appears to be the case when she is taken in by an elderly, wealthy mad woman she meets in a church, who is willing to harbor her, but who cannot withstand the might of the brothers who track her to the woman’s house. As the widow flees again and again, more of her past is revealed. In flashbacks we are told about her innocent upbringing by her widowed lawyer father and her paternal grandmother, a wealthy life which does not prepare her for the one she endures after her ill-thought-out marriage to her husband. Right away she is taken to a floorless hut without even a window, in a wilderness which had been described to her family as a fine house. Here she struggles to scrub and cook for a man who takes no more thought for her than if she were another mule added to his list of assets. After their baby dies within a few weeks of being born in the same bed he was conceived in, the widow is afflicted with madness. But while the widow is undeniably mentally disturbed in some respects, in others the craziness of her thoughts may lead to her salvation.
Adamson’s poetry is very evident in the writing of the book and although some of the words were lost on me, the writing is compelling. The style of beginning in the middle, during the flight of the widow, and then telling the beginning as the book proceeds along to its end is thoughtful and intriguing. One doesn’t know what actually happened regarding the murder until near the end of the book, lending it the air of a mystery as well as drama.
I can highly recommend this book, you will enjoy it.
Lylie Vitral, the Miracle Baby who survived a plane crash in 1980
Mark Vitral, her older brother who does not believe she is really his sister
Mathilde de Carville, the matron of a wealthy family whose grand daughter was also on the plane
Malvina de Carville, the older sister of the baby killed in the crash
Credule Grand Duc, a detective hired by Mathilde to find out the truth about the crash.
This is a remarkable story about the aftermath of a plane crash which occurred just before Christmas, 1980. Everyone on board was killed when the plane travelling from Istanbul to Paris crashed into Mont Terri, except for one baby girl. Miraculously, this baby was thrown far enough away from the crash to avoid the fire but was near enough to be warmed by it until rescuers reached the crash site. However, there were two baby girls on that flight, born within two days of each other. Since both sets of parents were dead no one knew for sure whose child she was. The two families involved, one extremely wealthy and the other of modest means, both claimed that the grandchild was theirs. A judge made the final decision, giving the child, Lylie, to the Vitral family based on the clothes she was wearing and the absence of a gold bracelet which should’ve been on the wrist of the wealthy family’s granddaughter. When we arrive on the scene Lylie has just turned eighteen and has come into a sizable amount of money put aside in a bank account by Mathilde de Carville, just in case the judge had been wrong and the girl really was her grand daughter. Mathilde had also hired a detective, Credule Grand Duc, who has been investigating the case for eighteen years, following every lead, looking into every possible clue to prove once and for all whose child Lylie really is. But he has not been able to discover the truth until the night before Lylie’s eighteenth birthday. He calls Mathilde to tell her he has found the answer but needs a couple of days to make sure, and then disappears. He has given Lylie a notebook with all of the information he has dug up through the years, and after reading it herself she gives the notebook to her brother, Marc to read. Then she too disappears. Marc is worried about Lylie and in trying to track her down goes first to Credule’s house and then to the de Carville’s mansion, reading the detective’s notebook while riding the train to his destinations. Malvina, who is now almost certifiably crazy, keeps a Mauzer in her purse and isn’t afraid to use it, tries to get the notebook from Marc, pretending to aid him in his quest to find Lylie. Marc is afraid that his sister is about to do something drastic, even commit suicide. He feels he is racing against time, reading the notebook for any clues it can give, travelling across France to find her.
A very intriguing book, After the Crash keeps the pieces of the puzzle quietly snapping into place with each chapter. I won’t spoil the ending!
So we’ll go no more aroving
So late into the night,
Thought the heart be still as loving,
And the moon be still as bright.
For the sword outwears it sheath,
And the soul outwears the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have rest.
This poem is at the beginning of the book which introduces us to the bosom friend of Lord Byron’s after his death. The story is told with excerpts from diaries, letters and private journals. It begins with a young barrister, Gerald Marston, who has taken a temporary job as a private detective to spy on Lord Ingersoll, a poet and contemporary of the Byron’s and the Shelley’s, who seems to be surrounded on all sides by suspicious deaths. Most recently that of his wife who was drowned after falling overboard during the night from their yacht. The weather had been rainy and somewhat windy, but not enough to cause real danger. But the inquest ruled the death was accidental. Ingersoll’s mother died by falling down the stairs at her home, breaking her neck and causing a fatal heart attack. Ingersoll, though not at home at the time, found his mother at the foot of the stairs. At the top of the stairs the carpet had been worn or possibly cut, causing her to catch her heel and tumble down. Ingersoll inherited a large sum upon her death. Most uncomfortable for Marston however, is the fact that the private detective just recently engaged in the same position which he now holds, has turned up dead as well, either from an accidental drowning or something more deliberate. Marston is spying on Ingersoll in Genoa, where Ingersoll’s illegitimate daughter, Diane Shelton, and her mother reside. Diane is to be taken by her father back to England and introduced to society so that she can find a husband with rank and title. To complicate matters more, George Marston falls head over heels in love with Diane which is rather difficult since he is spying on her father. No one knows if Ingersoll will be arrested when he returns to England due to the controversy surrounding him, yet he is willing to risk it for the sake of his daughter’s future.
This story is a bit complicated but is well told. At first it seems a sure thing that Lord Ingersoll is a very nasty piece of work, and Mr. Marston is doomed to lose his love if not his life. But as the narration proceeds many points of view come to light, not all of which are detrimental to the main character. This is a short book, just over 200 pages and is well worth the read, especially if you are a fan of Byron’s or Shelley’s.
“On the day of the new president’s inauguration, when we worried that he might be murdered as he walked hand in hand with his exceptional wife among the cheering crwods, and when so many of us were close to economic ruin in the aftermath of the bursting of the mortgage bubble, and when Isis was still an Egyptian mother-goddess, an uncrowned seventy-something king from a faraway country arrived in New York City with his three motherless sons to take possession of the palace of his exile, behaving as if nothing was wrong with the country or the world or his own story.”
So begins Salmon Rushdie’s latest novel, and it continues in like manner throughout the book, weaving the story of Nero Golden and his three sons, Petya, Apu, and D (for Dionysus) who have left their home in India for a mansion in New York City, with current events including a change in administration at the end of the above mentioned president’s two terms. Our narrator, Rene’, lives with his academic, left-leaning parents in Greenwich Village and becomes friendly, and in some cases, intimate with the Goldens while he pursues a career in documentary film making. Much of what we see is framed by the author in screen shots he hopes to create at some point later on. Of course the names are all fictitious but it takes several chapters to understand why they have changed them and left or fled their home country. Shady doesn’t seem to be quite the right word for Nero Golden, yet he is very human in his love for his sons.
This book is a good read. Salmon Rushdie as usual, is ‘out there’ with his comments on current events and telling it as he sees it.