Saturday, September 5, 2020

Six Degrees of Separation - From The Proud Way to Little Women

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.
Thinking about Civil War wives reminded me of Ashton’s Bride by Judith O’Brien (1995), my second book. This is an outstanding historical romance about a young professor who arrives at a southern university (perhaps based on Sewanee, the author’s alma mater) to teach English Literature and time travels back to the Civil War where she falls in love with Confederate General Ashton Johnson. Ashton is more sensitive than Jefferson Davis but probably that wasn’t hard!  I also loved O’Brien’s Rhapsody in Time.  I ran into her a couple times in New York after she wrote these books and liked her very much but lost touch, which was too bad.
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.


Lexlingua said...

First learnt about this meme from your very blog. I've been a regular fan/ traveller here. :-)

Great selection of books as always. Have only read Little Women and Jane-Emily from this list, but do want to try out Elswyth Thane's books. Thanks for sharing these!


TracyK said...

I think I have read Little Women but regardless, I want to read it soon. I was looking for a copy about the same time the coronavirus hit, and I still haven't found a copy that I want to get.

I want to get back to the Six Degrees meme, but I have to slow down for a while and catalog the books I bought in the last two years.

Anyway, this is an interesting chain, and some interesting books.

Cath said...

I love all the different directions people go off on for this meme. Yours is the third I've read tonight and they're all different. Fascinated that yours are nearly all civil war/slavery connected. The only one I've heard of and read is Little Women, which I adored as a teen but when I tried to read it again a few years ago I couldn't get on with it. Odd.

shelleyrae @ book'd out said...

An interesting theme with the civil war at its heart. Thanks for sharing.

Davida Chazan (The Chocolate Lady) said...

A very romantic chain here... but you might want to read A Turn of the Screw - it is very short, and really good!

Dewena said...

I think I read The Proud Way as a teenager. I had a large collection of Tennessee and Southern history related fiction and non that I left in their special Gothic church cabinet on the wall of our living room when we sold our farmhouse to our son and daughter-in-law a few years ago. She named her living room The Tennessee Room. Many of the books were novels by a beloved Peabody College professor Dr. Alfred Leland Crabb. Now I think we're all wondering about books and movies of the Civil War period, once loved but now deemed insensitive at best. Portrait of A Lady? I don't know why it's so hard for me to finish it because there is such lovely language in it--but I haven't. Maybe next year.

JaneGS said...

What a great six degrees thread. The only book I've read in your list is Little Women, but I did read Varina by Charles Frazier, which I absolutely loved.

I do like Civil War history and fiction, but haven't read any for awhile.

Louisa May Alcott is one of the most interesting American authors. I've read a few biographies and also visited Concord, which I loved. Rather than more film adaptations of Little Women, I would love to see a well-done, thoughtful mini-series on the Alcott family.

Marg said...

I like the civil war vibe you have got going on here! Thanks for sharing!

CLM said...

I normally like books about the English Civil War better than the American Civil War but somehow once I got started, I was on a roll. I hope it does not become unPC for authors to write from the perspective of the South, warts and all. Ignoring it would not mean it never existed but making the characters anachronistically sensitive to slavery would be absurd. I assume critics object to a glamorizing of the South and its way of life but except maybe in Gone With the Wind I don't recall any glamour other than to justify Robert E. Lee's decision to stick with the South. However, I have not read extensively on the subject.

Dewena, that sounds like a lovely bookcase and contents you left your daughter. Shirley Seifert was the type of historical novelist you might very well have picked up and included. She was nominated for a Pulitzer prize for a book called The Wayfarers which I have never run across. She was of that Frances Parkinson Keyes, Inglis Fletcher era. By the way, did you see I read a Sara Ware Bassett book?

Jane, I have been meaning to read the Varina book by Charles Frazier. I agree that we don't need any more Little Women adaptations but one about the March family (did you read March by Geraldine Brooks? My book group had mixed reactions) would be interesting or An Old Fashioned Girl or Eight Cousins, my favorites. PBS did a documentary on Louisa which I missed but I think you can watch on YouTube.

Cath and Tracy, I read Andrew Taylor's second Lydgate book, and liked it. I will continue with this series, although probably not right away.

Lex, glad you have joined the 6 Degree fun. I find it very entertaining to read others' and to create one. I am trying not to repeat a book. Davida, maybe I will read The Turn of the Screw. Marg and Shellyrae, thanks for stopping by.