Tracy Chevalier, author of Girl with a Pearl Earring, the forthcoming novel At the Edge of the Orchard (out in March 2016), and, most recently, The Last Runaway, shares her list of the “5 Best Recent Civil War Novels” with the Penguin Hotline:
1. Enemy Women by Paulette Jiles
A young Missouri woman navigates a state wrecked by war in search of her father. Instead she ends up in prison, finding love in an unlikely place and with an unlikely man. It’s entertaining, romantic and beautifully written – I was not surprised to discover Jiles is a poet.
2. Coal Black Horse by Robert Olmstead
Another youngster searches for his father, this time at Gettysburg, with the help of the titular horse. Poetic and harrowing.
3. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
Forget the tepid movie stars from the film and focus instead on the wonderful characters Frazier creates in words: Inman, who walks away from battles and back through the South to Ada, the woman he loves; Ada, who has to learn to survive by getting her hands dirty; and Ruby, her salty, earthy helpmate. This is about the people affected by war rather than about battles, and how you manage to live and love in extremes.
4. Neverhome by Laird Hunt
A woman leaves her farm and husband to take his place and fight in the Civil War. You think she won’t manage it, but she does, thrillingly and violently.
Ever wonder what was happening to the father Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women were writing to? Brooks takes a great premise and makes it even better, painting a bold, complex character in March as he joins the war and reveals how unprepared he is either physically or mentally for a fight that extends well beyond battles and uncovers the cruelty and racism at the heart of his country.
Thanks, Tracy Chevalier! And the Penguin Hotline can’t help but recommend one of our favorite Civil War novels – The Last Runaway.
For more book recommendations for the holidays, check out the Penguin Hotline!