Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Widow Of The South

Editor's thought: I would like to read this book because the civil war fascinates me. I first learnt about the American history in slavery when I was in the 5th grade in Hong Kong. The images of the slaves being captured during their escape (told by my world history teacher at the time) left such horrific imprints on my young brain that I became more appreciative in my own freedom. I didn't really think of it as a racial issue cause at the time I knew regardless of race, slavery was conducted all over the world, in ancient Egypt, Rome, in China too of course. The Chinese were slaving and selling Chinese slaves..... I watched it a lot on black and white TV about those Chinese slaves being abused, sold, locked up, chained, drowned....etc etc by their masters.... (Chinese dramas in the 50s...) What the American civil war fascinates me is the million of deaths that incurred in the USA (civilians and soliders combined, could it be more? can anyone tell me?) for the cause of fighting for the freedom of others....As a child, I was impressed by the fact that many white people died because of the freedom fight for the black people. I was wondering what other country in the world would fight for the benefits of other ethnic groups or race. I couldn't find any but the United States of America. (If you know, email me cause I would like to know...)

Slavery was a bad and cruel practice in all human history, not only in America, but around the world. The American history of slavery is the most mentioned, I think mainly because of the scale of the civil war and the impact of the war to the country. I had never heard any other countries that launched wars to free their slaves....(as I said, if there was, let me know... I am very courious...)

A historical romance that explores the pain, the loss and horror that people suffered during the civil war seems to be a very interesting fiction to read. I feel that the black people weren't the only people who experienced pain, loss, horror as a result of slavery, I feel that many many white people too suffered the same as a cost they paid for having such a cruel practice, which led to the civil war. During the history of American slavery, I felt that there were a lot more victims than winners (regardless of their skin colors..)... The African Americans have fought a long war and walked a long walk to get their rights and freedom, but I want everyone to know that during such a long journey, many white Americans have been fighting and walking with them all along. The war for freedom is never about a particular race, it's about the conviction of mankind to stand up for what is wrong.

Description from In an Author's Note at the end of his book The Widow of the South, Robert Hicks tells us that "when Oscar Wilde made his infamous tour of America in 1882, he told his hosts that his itinerary should include a visit to 'sunny Tennessee to meet the Widow McGavock, the high priestess of the temple of dead boys.'"Carrie McGavock, The Widow of the South, did indeed take it upon herself to grieve the loss of so many young men in the battle of Franklin, Tennessee, which took place on November 30, 1864.Nine thousand men lost their lives that day.She and her husband John eventually re-buried on their own land 1,481 Confederate soldiers killed at Franklin, when the family that owned the land on which the original shallow graves had been dug decided to plow it under and put it into cultivation.Before the battle begins, Carrie's house is commandeered for a field hospital and all normal life is suspended.Carrie is anything but normal, however.She has buried three children, has two living children she pays little attention to, has turned the running of the house over to her slave, Mariah, and spends her time dressed in black walking around in the dark or lying down lamenting her loss.She is a morbid figure from the outset but becomes less so as the novel progresses.The death going on all around her shakes her out of her torpor, but death is definitely her comfort zone.One of the soldiers who is treated at the house is Zachariah Cashwell, who loses his leg when Carrie sends him to surgery rather than watch him die.They are inextricably bound in some kind of a spiritual dance from then on.Their reasons for being drawn to each other are inexplicable, apparently, because they remain unexplained, and when Cashwell tells Carrie he loves her, she beats him nearly to death because she loves him too.At least, that is the reason Hicks gives.He violates that first caveat given to all writers: "show us, don't tell us."There is doubtless something deeply flawed in Carrie and screamingly symbolic about her behavior; it is surely elusive.Too bad, because Carrie was a real person whom Hicks lauds for her compassion and ability to grieve without end.Then, he throws in this gratuitous "love story" and confuses the issue.Carrie's relationship with her husband and children remains unexamined. Hicks is better at describing death and "the stink of war" than he is at life.If you read War and Peace and loved all the war parts and were bored senseless by the peace parts, this is your cup of tea. --Valerie Ryan

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