It’s time for #6degrees, inspired by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. We all start at the same place as other readers, add six books, and see where one ends up. This month’s starting point is Rodham: A Novel by Curtis Sittenfeld, in which the author reimagines Hillary’s life if she hadn’t married Bill. My sisters liked her book Prep but I have no interest in reading this book which sounds so invasive. Leave Hillary alone!
However, it somehow reminded me of my first book, The Proud Way by Shirley Seifert (1948), a historical novel about Varina Davis, the First Lady of the Confederacy, married to Jefferson Davis. Varina came from a slave-owning family in Mississippi but received a better education than most women of her class and, perhaps influenced by Northern relatives, did not approve of slavery. Her birthplace, The Briers, is now a B&B if I ever make it to Natchez. This book belonged to my mother.
My third book is by Elswyth Thane, the second book in her beloved Williamsburg saga, Yankee Stranger (1944), back in print in book and electronic form. It is about lovely Eden Day, a Southern belle who upsets her family by falling for a handsome Northern stranger, just as the Civil War is breaking out. Some readers prefer Eden’s sister Susannah, and my friend Laura even named her daughter Susannah in tribute to this character. It is not *essential* to read Dawn’s Early Light first but there are some spoilers. Just do it!Best known for the haunting Jane-Emily, Patricia Clapp also wrote several historical novels for young people, including The Tamarack Tree (1986), my fourth book, set during the Siege of Vicksburg. Orphaned Rosemary, recently arrived from London, struggles with her belief that slavery is wrong and brings an outsider's perspective to the issues that sparked the Civil War but has come to love the Southerners who welcomed her.
In the early 90s, Heather Graham wrote a very popular historical romance trilogy about brothers from Virginia who find themselves on opposites sides of the Civil War in One Wore Blue (1991), my fifth book. The other books are called And One Wore Gray and And One Rode West. I have often been around Heather’s fans and many say this series is their all-time favorite. I wanted Heather to write a book about Varina Davis and found her a copy of The Proud Way years ago but can’t recall if she ever did (she has written more than 200 books and I haven’t read them all!).
Little Women is my sixth book. Readers may recall that Mr. March was a Civil War chaplain but in real life it was Louisa May Alcott who served her country by going to DC to nurse soldiers. Her nursing career was short: the conditions were so terrible that she came down with typhoid pneumonia six weeks after arriving, and she was dosed with calomel, a poisonous mercury compound widely used during the Civil War, which gave her nightmares. Eventually, her father brought her back north to Massachusetts but her health never fully recovered. I have been thinking about Alcott a lot recently, which inspired a recent visit to Concord. And to bring this full circle, I am sure that both HRC and Curtis Sittenfeld have read Little Women. Although it is Louise Penny's Three Pines series Hillary has been reading lately . . .
Have you read any of these? Next month (October 3, 2020), Kate says we’ll start with The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. I've read Washington Square and, many years ago, The Portrait of a Lady but that is it thus far.