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Oldest living Confederate widow tells all
Allan Gurganus
Adult Fiction GURGANU

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From Publishers' Weekly:

For more than half of its very considerable length, this remarkable first novel is a gem: entertaining, engrossing and memorable. Narrated by 95-year-old Lucy Marsden in a distinctive voice brimming with colorful images and sassy, ribald asides, it tells of her marriage at 15 to 50-year-old Civil War veteran ``Captain'' Marsden, who, permanently traumatized by events he witnessed when he and his best friend enlisted as teenagers, makes a lifetime career of reminiscing about the conflict and collecting weapons to memorialize it. Feisty, irreverent and with a caustic tongue--even in recounting the most tragic incidents, her outspoken opinions crackle with dark humor--Lucy distills the essence of the war, evokes the atmosphere of the small town of Falls, N.C.--interspersing social commentary about the South, its women and the institution of slavery--and draws the portrait of a singular marriage. Garganus has a magic way with words: on page after page, one is tempted to reread the brilliant images that pepper Lucy's monologue. Some scenes have a gripping intensity, especially the section on the burning of the Marsden plantation by Sherman's troops and the accidental immolation of beautiful Lady Marsden. The slide from engrossing to overwritten is almost imperceptible, but when, midway through the novel, Garganus tries to fill in every last detail by way of chapter-long digressions--the childhood of Lucy's mother and the courtship of Lucy's parents, the reminiscences of a wonderfully evoked ex-slave Castalia, etc.--he creates a series of dazzling character vignettes and set pieces that are fascinating in their own right but tend to overload an already long narrative. By the end, Garganus has somewhat overplayed his point that ``history'' always has a personal impact; in the meantime, he has given us a story that, whatever its defects, is an unforgettable reading experience. BOMC main selection. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Ninety-nine year old Lucille Marsden, confined to a charity nursing home in North Carolina, is an American cousin of Joyce's Anna Livia Plurabelle. Lucy tells the story of her marriage to ``Captain'' Will Marsden, ostensibly the Civil War's last survivor, whom she married when she was 15 and he was more than triple her age. She also tells about her husband's experiences in the war and after, the burning of her mother-in-law's plantation by Sherman's men, and the abduction from Africa of a former Marsden slave, midwife to Lucy's nine children as well as her best friend. But this novel is less about the War Between the States than about the war between the sexes. And, like Finnegan's Wake , it's also about how history is recorded and about how lives are turned into stories. Lucy's voice casts a spell as enchanting as Scheherazade's; a first novel to be slowly savored and richly enjoyed. BOMC selection.-- Charles Michaud, Turner Free Lib., Randolph, Mass. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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main characters Lucille "Lucy" Marsden
Female
Age: 99
Widow
Married her husband, a Civil War veteran, at the age of 15 and he was 50; her husband was permanently traumatized by the events he witnessed; reminisced about the conflict and collected weapons to memorialize it; her mother-in-law's plantation was burned to the ground by Sherman's men; her midwife to her nine children was a slave abducted from Africa.



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