Top positive review
33 people found this helpful
A fine and moving historical novel.
on 2 August 2012
I initially overlooked this book as its title suggested some soppy romance; even after reading the book description, I wasn't sure it wouldn't be some crinoline rustler - but no, this is an excellent, moving and thoroughly well-researched novel.
The triple-stranded story tells of Johnny Tom, a Chinese man who eventually finds himself fighting in the Union Army against the Confederate South, hoping to gain citizenship and be re-united with his wife and daughter. Meanwhile his daughter, Era Tom, has become a nurse, using the neutrality of her position to spy for the Union. She did not, however, expect to fall in love with one of her Confederate patients...
Davenport presents a wonderfully sweeping account of her character's lives and experiences; Johnny's escape from the hardships of China only to encounter the brutal racial prejudices and cruelties of slavery in America; the glittering and horrific spectacles of the Civil War and the torturous psychological dilemmas Era faces in spying for one side but living and sharing the hardships of the other.
The author`s prose is at times lyrical and beautifully descriptive; her grasp of the historical setting impressive; she clearly and accurately relates the facts of the military engagements her characters are party and witness to; even relatively minor details in the grand order of these massive historical events - like the fate of the hundreds of thousands of wartime photographic plates; the South's clandestine poppy fields used for opium production, the care required for the overwhelming numbers of disabled after the war - all are factually-based elements woven into her narrative.
Davenport subtly lays bare the global nature of intolerance and slavery, from China and Eastern Europe to the "freedom" of the new United States of America and the need for minorities to trust one another as they slowly begin the process of becoming part of it; perhaps it is the third character, Warren Petticomb, the battle-damaged young cavalryman who falls for Era, and his difficult odyssey through the war and the country's peacetime reconstruction who delivers the author`s message of hope, acceptance and faith in humanity - you will have to read the book to find that out for yourself.
This is a book that pulls no punches; it is visceral in the descriptions of battle and the evils that mankind is capable of; at its heart there is both a love story and a moving tale of the resilience of the human spirit.
I can only recommend such a fine and emotionally powerful novel with a five star rating.