Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Confederate General Rides North

Everyone (well, everyone who reads this blog) already knows about my love affair with memoirs because not only do I read a lot of them, but I also am fairly vociferous about this. I also love debut novels. I absolutely love finding a new author that is not well known, who has spent years on their writing and who has edited and re-edited their work so that each word is as close to perfect as it can get. Sure, I like John Grisham and Nicholas Sparks, but I loved their early work - work that took them a while to get published and that they really spent time looking over. Now there work comes out right on schedule, and because of that I feel like something is lost in their art...it just isn't as good as it once was.
Every time I find a debut novel I know I am taking a chance because they don't have a reputation yet, but often I am happily surprised by the writing I encounter.

Last fall I looked at the book The Confederate General Rides North by Amanda Gable a few times. It managed to make IndieBound's monthly Indie Next List and I considered ordering it for myself but just never got around to it. I am so glad I happened upon it at the library because this book is just the kind of debut novel I enjoy and gives me the incentive to keep reading first novels.

Katherine is just eleven when she and her mother set off on a summer journey to go North and visit various Civil War battlegrounds and landmarks while her mother collects antiques for an antique store she is planning on opening. Katherine narrates this story, and much of the book is backstory as Katherine explains her mother's erratic behavior throughout her life, her inability to focus and complete projects, and examples of how Katherine and her father make allowances for her mother. As the summer progresses Katherine discovers that the trip she and her mother are on is not only a fly-by-night plan, but has also been undertaken without anyone else in the family knowing where they are. To keep the peace, Katherine agrees to keep her whereabouts a secret that only she and her mother will know, but as her mother's behavior becomes even more unstable, Katherine needs to decide what to do to help herself.

Set during the Vietnam war, this book does explore life in the 1960s, yet there is a great deal of Civil War history that Gable includes since Katherine is a Civil War buff and is thrilled to be able to see such famous landmarks, even though the trip is less than ideal.

I'm not sure this one counts for the War Through the Generations: Vietnam challenge that I signed up for, especially since there was so much Civil War history included, but I absolutely loved this coming of age novel. This is another example of a book that just hasn't had a lot of press and has flown under the radar, but that I think is worthy of a wide readership and will be recommending to those who love historical fiction, womens fiction, and are looking for a good book club book.


Missy B. said...

Sounds like I would love this. Thanks for the review!

Diane said...

I love memoirs as well; this one sounds great. Thanks so much Tina.

Serena said...

This sounds like an interesting book. If it is set during the Vietnam war and there is enough of an impact on the plot or characters, we would count it for the Vietnam War Reading Challenge. Just email us the link if you think it counts.

Bailey said...

I saw this on your 'best of 2010' list and put it on my wishlist - just got around to reading it, but I absolutely loved the character that the author created in Katherine. Her love for the Civil War was so neat and quirky, and it was interesting how her knowledge of history helped her get through a difficult time in her life. I'm glad this was on your 2010 list, otherwise I probably wouldn't have discovered it!