A Novel

Large Print - 2018
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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."
Publisher: New York, NY : HarperLuxe, 2018
Edition: Large print ed
ISBN: 9780062406019
Characteristics: 494 p. (large print) ; 23 cm


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Dec 12, 2018

Frazer, who so captivated his readers in "Cold Mountain," is completely back on form. He invites us across a panoply of historical landscapes from ante-bellum plantations on the Mississippi river to Saratoga Springs and Paris, navigates the heights of Washington society, the collapse of the Confederacy and the sad ruins of the ravaged South. As always, his language is poetic and even musical, and his exploration of the title character - in all her painful negotiations of marriage and family, gender and race - is masterful.

ArapahoeMarieC Oct 29, 2018

An excellent historical novel with a compelling main character. The novel was particularly interesting when describing the immediate aftermath of the Civil War.

Sep 29, 2018

I enjoyed this book but did find it disjointed at times. She was a women of seemingly strong character who was well educated and often seemed an odd fit w/ her husband Jefferson Davis. Given the time she lived it is difficult to judge her too harshly. In death it seems she rejoined her sometimes estranged family and the Confederacy.

ArapahoeAnnaL Sep 24, 2018

A great literary historical novel with a refreshingly bright, self-reliant protagonist who nonetheless gets swept up in the fight for the Confederacy and only too late realizes the full horror of the cause.

Sep 10, 2018

Reads more like creative non fiction than a novel. I finished it because I knew very little about this woman but it was slow going. Doesn’t come close to come close to Cold Mountain.

Aug 06, 2018

This is a beautifully written novel! Metaphors make the environment come alive. The characterization makes the reader admire this woman placed in an unbearable situation. I loved her and grieved for her at the end.

wendybird Jul 11, 2018

I am a big Charles Frazier fan -- I've read all his novels, and "Cold Mountain" will forever remain one of my very favorites.
With Varina, he returns to the American Civil War for plot, and to his incredible way with language. This time his main character (Varina, or - as she is referred to throughout, simply "V") is someone plucked from true history : the 2nd wife of the 1st President (and only) of the Confederate States, Varina Howell Davis.
V. married the successful lieutenant Jefferson Davis (whom she describes early in their courtship as a complex man - seeming neither young, nor old, and 'the kind who would rescue me from a mad dog at any risk). Indeed, Davis was older - 45 to her 18 at marriage. Educated, lovely, lively and well raised, Varina went on to enjoy her time in Washington before the horrors of succession, Sumter, and beyond.
My time with the book was worthwhile, and I enjoyed it. However, the tale is not for those who wish a novel to move faster than a paddleboat on the Mississippi, or who want specific, tightly hewn sentences. "Varina" is for those who wish to be caught up - and stay awhile - in the complex, messy, beautiful, haunting world of the American South during and after the Civil War.

Jun 12, 2018

I didn’t know much about the wife of the Confederate State President, Jefferson Davis, but now I do. I think she’s a person I’d like to know and I would love to have Oprah interview. Varina was an intelligent, strong willed woman who was comfortable in her skin. She didn’t rely on a man to shape her personality. I wonder if she’d have been the US Senator instead of her husband, if history would have been different.

Jun 11, 2018

This is a book you read for eloquent language and sentence structure. Frazier can share a lot of historical detail in just a sentence or two. One can only imagine the amount of research he did to let you know that a child's doll was used for smuggling morphine. Set during the last year of Varina Davis' life, Frazier uses the device of a grown-up child who visits an important figure of his past to delineate his own life pattern. In a series of Sunday visits, Varina relays her life experiences from childhood to the present for the reader. History, as told through Varina's eyes, becomes intimate, personal, and often cynical and cutting about the motives and actions of Civil War era politicians. Her views and opinions paint a very complex picture of a turbulent time in American history.

May 01, 2018

Read 50 pages then reluctantly gave up. I couldn't get into it.

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