You might remember a post I made last month, My Love Affair with the Art Novel, where I compiled a big list of books – some I’ve reviewed here, some I’ve had on my To Read list, and a few upcoming titles – that all dealt with one of my favorite topics: art in literature. I’d love to make this a semi-regular feature and today I’m in total Civil War mode.
If you know anything at all about me, you know I’m something of a Civil War buff. My studies focused on the War Between the States and on this day in 1865, General Lee surrendered to General Grant. The War was over – a perfect time for this post, don’t you think?
Rebel Spirits by Lois Ruby (my review)
I’m usually not a big fan of paranormal stories, particularly one where a ghost is a love interest, but this one is from Scholastic and Scholastic has never let me down. A girl moves to Gettysburg – a town I love – and discovers the inn her parents bought still has a former resident. Nathaniel Pierce died a suspicious death and he wants Lori’s help in bringing the truth to light.
Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini
Chiaverini has a number of Civil War-era novels to her name: The Spymistress and Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival being two others. Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker focuses on, well, Mrs. Lincoln’s dressmaker – Elizabeth Keckley, a former slave. Lizzie was there when the Lincolns’ son died and when the country lost its president. She actually published a memoir, Behind the Scenes: Or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House, which ultimately resulted in Mary Todd Lincoln severing all ties with her. This novel, however, focuses on their friendship and Lizzie’s time spent at the White House.
I Shall Be Near to You by Erin Lindsay McCabe
Hoo boy, this book. Both Cassie and Hannah loved it and that’s really all I need to know. Remember that weekend I culled my goodreads shelves? In an attempt to get a bit more organized I added a priority shelf. This book was one of the first to be added! A woman disguises herself as a Union soldier in an attempt to be with her husband. While this novel is fiction, the events behind it are very real: hundreds of women on BOTH sides went off to war.
Neverhome by Laird Hunt
This one is very similar to I Shall Be Near to You in that it too follows a wife as she dons a Union uniform. What sets this one apart, however, is that her husband stayed behind on their farm. Why did her husband stay? Why did she leave? Will be be coming home? This one drops the day after my birthday and you can bet I’ll be grabbing a copy when it does!
My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira
Oliveira’s latest novel, I Always Loved You was the inspiration behind the art novel post. While I didn’t enjoy that book as much as I had hoped, I wasn’t yet ready to write her off and am curious about her debut. My Name is Mary Sutter tells the story of a woman who wants to become a surgeon and aid wounded troops.
The Civil War 1861-1865 series by Jeff and Michael Shaara
This series is a classic and, judging from the number of high school students asking for them, it’s one that has been added to a number of reading lists lately! Gods and Generals, The Killer Angels (without a doubt the most recognized of the three), and The Last Full Measure follow the events leading up to Gettysburg as well as the aftermath.
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
Another classic that I’m sure MANY of you had to read in school and, by far, the oldest novel in this list (it was written in 1895). The story follows a young boy who is initially excited to go off and but, but winds up being overcome with fear and flees.
March by Geraldine Brooks
Show of hands: how many of you read Little Women? March tells the story of the father who went off to war. I personally LOVE stories that aren’t quite retellings, but expand upon a work (Jo Baker’s Longbourn is another example).
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl (my review)
While technically not a Civil War novel, the War does play quite a large part! I adore this book – so, SO fun – now I just need to get my butt in gear and finish the rest!
The Resurrectionist by Matthew Guinn
This novel immediately caught my eye the moment I first heard about it. A young doctor at a South Carolina hospital faces a dilemma when a gruesome past is uncovered – literally. Bones of a resurrectionist, a term given to those who had the means for obtaining corpses for anatomy training, have been unearthed. This novel features a dual narrative and you all know I love me some dual narratives!
The Healing by Jonathan Odell
First of all, look at that gorgeous cover! This novel is one I’d love to check out: on the day a slave gives birth, her mistress’s daughter dies. The mistress is convinced that baby holds some of her daughter’s spirit and adopts her into the family despite her husband’s protests. When a deadly sickness rages through the plantation, Granada is said to possess The Healing, and 75 years later, she’s still living in the house with long-buried memories.
Blue Asylum by Kathy Hepinstall
A plantation owner’s wife is put on trial and convicted of madness. Although she knows that 1) she’s thoroughly sane and 2) her husband is the true criminal, she agrees to go to an asylum in Florida. While there, she meets a Confederate soldier haunted by his memories. Iris knows she must escape and, in doing so, must find a way to bring Ambrose with her.
The Rebel Wife by Taylor M. Polites
A widow must find a way to support herself and her young son after her husband’s sudden death leaves her with nothing: social standing is gone, she has no money, she has no house, and the deadly sickness that took her husband is raging across Alabama.
When Will This Cruel War be Over? by Barry Denenberg
I lived and breathed Dear America books when I was in elementary school and was THRILLED when my youngest sister became interested in them. While it’s been years since I last read one, they’re still near and dear to my heart, and I’d love to revisit some of my favorites (Voyage on the Great Titanic, A Journey to the New World, and Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie).
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
The Civil War classic to end all classics.
I know not a lot of you are big non-fiction readers (espeiclaly when it comes to history!), so I’ve only included a few that I feel are fantastic places to start. If you’re interested in more non-fic recs, get in touch with me and I’d be more than happy to give you a big long list!
Manhunt by James L. Swanson
I cannot recommend this book enough. If you’re a fan of non-fiction, read it. If you’re a history buff, read it. If you like non-fic that reads just like a story (fans of Erik Larson, this one’s for you!), READ IT. This book starts with Lincoln’s assassination and explores the following twelve days when the entire country hunted the man responsible. Manhunt was my first audiobook and let me tell you, it was perfect. I was making a 10 hr. trip and the entire time we were silent, only speaking during CD changes – and even then it was ONLY ABOUT WHAT HAD JUST HAPPENED. The book is fascinating and I never felt bogged down or overwhelmed with details. Bravo, Mr. Swanson!
Battle Cry of Freedom by James M. McPherson
Really, anything by McPherson. He’s not one of the most highly regarded Civil War historians for nothing! This book won the Pulitzer Prize. Definitely a great starting point.
The Civil War: A Narrative by Shelby Foote
If you’re looking to learn more about the Civil War, look no further than Foote’s massive three-tome narrative. His books are a staple in any Civil War buff’s library. He has also appeared in the PBS series Ken Burns did on the war!
The Centennial History of the Civil War by Bruce Catton
Catton is the grandfather of Civil War historians. He’s the most prolific of the writers and, decades later, his works are still being read and studied. Whether you pick up one of his series or just a standalone, you’re in good hands.