the next good book


By Charles Frazier


353 pages

What’s it about? Varina Howell is a teenager when she meets and agrees to marry a much older widower- Jefferson Davis.  This is the story of Varina and her life as the wife of Jefferson Davis. We follow Varina from Mississippi to Washington D.C. and then on to Richmond as the wife of the newly elected President of the Confederacy.  We also see how her complicity in the Civil War forever changes her heart and her life. What did it make me think about? This was an interesting look at the costs of the Civil War from an unusual perspective.  In this novel Charles Frazier writes about choices, complicity and guilt with a light touch.  I sometimes wished I understood Varina and the choices she made on a deeper level.  Maybe this is the genius of Charles Frazier- his stories are complicated and nuanced.  No easy answers here.  This is a really good book about landing on the wrong side of history. Should I read it? If you liked “Cold Mountain” then you will enjoy “Varina” as well.  Charles Frazier is a beautiful writer.  It must be said that his stories go at a leisurely pace.   He slowly reveals his characters.  For me,  it was definitely worth the wait! Quote- “V tells James, I sometimes imagine meeting my seventeen-year-old self.   She’s still here inside me somewhere.  Maybe one morning in the mirror, there she’ll be. I look at her with affection and understanding and hope.  She sees me and backs away in horror while I try tyo explain why I made the choices I made. Back then, a good marriage did not require love.  A good marriage meant security- money and position and a man who didn’t knock you around. We all wanted both, of course- love and security- but mostly we settled for the second and manufactured an attraction to keep from acknowledging the arranged, contractual foundation of the relationship, the mercantile nature of it.  All those years, I can’t remember one girl from a good family who settled for only love.  “

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