Reading Wednesday: March 22, 2023

Another 2 finished books to discuss this week. I’m still listening to The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams as my audiobook, and I just (today) started Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker, a new nonfiction book, so more to come on both of those.

I finished up Charles Frazier’s Varina, an historical fiction about Varina Davis, the first (and only) First Lady of the Confederacy. Told in a series of flashbacks, she remembers her younger days from her courtship with Jefferson Davis and life on his plantation, to her time in Washington, DC, as a congressman’s wife, through her short-lived time in the Gray House (as the mansion where she and her husband and family lived at the beginning of the Civil War in Richmond, Virginia) and their escape into the wilderness of the Carolinas as the Confederacy fell. The book paints a picture of a strong-minded, independent woman who suffered family loss (all but one of her children died by their early 20s) and life upheavals, and who was conflicted about the right to own slaves, even as her husband’s government separated from the Union and plunged the US into war over that issue. The book also paints a picture of the South during and after the war, the poverty and loss of property and life, that is heartbreakingly vivid. I enjoyed Frazier’s writing, which is eloquent and descriptive, and if you enjoyed his better-known book, Cold Mountain, you’d probably enjoy this one although I felt the pacing of this one was a bit slow. 4 stars

The second book, Keeper of the Queen’s Jewels, by Adrienne Dillard is another historical fiction, but this one is set at the Tudor court of Henry VIII and focuses on his third wife, Jane Seymour. The story is told with 2 parallel points of view, that of Queen Jane, and that of Margery Horsman, who served the queen as mistress of her wardrobe. Margery also served the recently deceased Queen Anne Boleyn and has in her possession one of Anne’s necklaces that she is keeping hidden for Anne’s daughter, Elizabeth. Filled with the intrigues of the Tudor court, with shifting factions and courtiers always on edge due to Henry’s unpredictable temper, this book brings both women, Jane and Margery, to life within the court itself. While the book covers a fairly short period of time (about a year) from Jane’s marriage to the delivery of her son, Edward, and her subsequent death from childbirth, there is a wealth of information about the court and an enjoyable read for fans of this period. Thank you to for sending me her copy to read! 4-1/4 stars

7 thoughts on “Reading Wednesday: March 22, 2023

    1. A trusted reader friend recommended it. It’s slightly more bittersweet than I expected but I actually like that. I’m not always a fan of these kinds of books – I feel like they can sometimes be a bit saccharine but so far, this is a good one!

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