Marmee

marmee jacket

Marmee: A Novel of Little Women by Sarah Miller

Do you have a favorite character in Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel Little Women? Perhaps Jo, Amy, Beth or Meg. Here’s another looks at the March sisters from their mother’s point of view. Written as Marmee’s diary entries from late 1861 until December 1868, this heartfelt novel gives Marmee depth and a more fully developed personality, with her character based on that of Louisa May’s mother Abigail May Alcott, an abolitionist, suffragist, and activist. Imagine being, essentially, a single mother of four girls during the Civil War, struggling to make ends meet and worrying about your husband. Marmee looks back at her life to reveal the secret reason their social and financial circumstances changed. A friendship with the Hummel family becomes very meaningful to Marmee, as does her relationship with housekeeper Hannah. More satisfying than recent film adaptations while still a tearjerker at times, it’s a real pleasure to visit with the March family again. Readalikes include The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper, Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy, and Caroline: Little House, Revisited, also by Sarah Miller.

Brenda

Simon the Fiddler

Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles

The author of the acclaimed novel News of the World returns to Texas in 1865 for another beautifully told adventure. Simon the fiddler has three goals in life: to protect his precious fiddle and his hands, to save enough money to buy a piece of land, and to win the heart and hand of Miss Doris Dillon, an Irish immigrant. The story is bookended by a pair of brawls; one gets Simon conscripted into the Confederate Army at the end of the Civil War while the other lands him in jail. Simon and a mismatched group of musicians, including drummer boy Patrick, travel through post-war Texas, playing music in bars, hotels, and at parties, starting out in rented white shirts. The many fans of News of the World will welcome this colorful tale, to be published April 14, and won’t want Simon’s story to end.

Brenda

The Second Mrs. Hockaday

The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers

Loosely based on a true story, this is a compelling first novel set in South Carolina during and after the Civil War. Teen Placidia Fincher marries Major Gryffith Hockaday shortly after they meet, and almost immediately Gryffith is called back to war. Placidia, 17, finds herself managing the isolated farm and raising toddler Charlie. Scavengers visit, claiming to need supplies for the soldiers. Slaves come and go, and it’s a struggle to get enough help to plant and harvest crops. Some of her relatives, half and step siblings, are surprisingly spiteful, but one neighbor is very helpful. Two years later her husband comes home, to scandal. Neighbors tell him that Placidia had a baby, and soon after buried the child. He files a law suit, and she stays with a nearby doctor’s family, writing letters to her cousin that describe her life during the war while  stubbornly refusing to reveal how she got pregnant. The pace continually intensifies, with plenty of drama and some violence, as the reader, and the younger generation who discover Placidia’s diary, are compelled to find out the facts, especially what happens to Placidia and Gryffith when he discovers the truth.
Brenda

 

The Mapmaker’s Children

mapmaker's jacketThe Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy

This novel shifts back and forth in time, from a contemporary couple struggling with infertility who move into an old house in a small suburb of Washington, D.C., to 1859 and the Civil War years, featuring Sarah Brown, one of abolitionist John Brown’s daughters. The house connects the two stories, along with a doll and the Underground Railroad. I thought the part of the book about Sarah was a much stronger story, although she lived through some tragic times. Sarah had a fascinating life, well-researched by the author. The modern-day couple, Eden and Jack, aren’t as appealing, although their quirky neighbors and scenes of small-town life are enjoyable. Recommended for anyone who enjoys Civil War era fiction.

Brenda

A Quilt for Christmas

quilt christmas jacketA Quilt for Christmas by Sandra Dallas

Eliza Spooner and her two children struggle to run their small Kansas farm after Will joins the Union Army. Eliza and her friends meet once a month to quilt and support each other, and Eliza sends Will a special down-filled quilt for Christmas. Widowed Missouri Ann and her little girl move in, and an escaped slave needs a safe place to stay. Finally, the Christmas quilt is brought home after the war in a most unexpected way. A quick read, this charming, heartwarming novel about life on the homefront during and right after the Civil War is loosely connected with The Persian Pickle Club.

Brenda