Confederate Widow Confidential Varina Tells Almost All

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NH Civil War Gal

1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
Feb 5, 2017

"The cover of Charles Frazier’s Varina: A Novel identifies its author as the “bestselling author of Cold Mountain.” When Cold Mountain, his first Civil War novel, appeared in 1997, it stayed on the New York Times list for over a year and won him the National Book Award. The star-studded film in 2003 earned $175 million worldwide, and Renée Zellweger collected an Oscar for her performance as Ruby Thewes. The relationship between Ada Monroe and Ruby Thewes was a nuanced counterpoint to Ada’s love story with Inman, and it emerged as a paean to female friendship and to wartime survival.

Some scholars took umbrage at the book’s particularly whitewashed landscape. Frazier was reprimanded—at times savaged—for the absence of black voices. People of color were few and far between in his story; for instance, at one point, an enslaved woman was carried to the riverside to be drowned by a white preacher, disposing of her as if an unwanted kitten. Frazier concentrated on how those fighting for the Confederacy were fighting for “home,” rather than to shore up the slave power (and by association, white supremacy)—and so the perpetual wrangle continues.

Thus Varina, his fourth novel, confronts issues of race and southern identity, and perhaps signals penance. Frazier’s main character, James Blake, is described as a black child orphaned by war then adopted by Jefferson and Varina Davis. After surrender in 1865 and despite his protests, he was torn from the Confederate First Family. This backstory is based on Jimmie Limber, a refugee featured in Elizabeth Botume’s First Days Amongst the Contrabands.[1]"
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