Homeland is told entirely in the form of a correspondence between two women nominally on opposite sides of the American Civil War. Susanna is the daugHomeland is told entirely in the form of a correspondence between two women nominally on opposite sides of the American Civil War. Susanna is the daughter of a Southern plantation-holder and a gifted artist; intellectual Cora, from Maine, is married to one of Susanna's family friends, Emory. Susanna opens the correspondence with a plea to Cora not to tell anyone that she saw Susanna in a compromising embrace. Cora gently admonishes Susanna that the man���Emory's widowed father, Justin���does not have a good reputation, but otherwise holds her peace. When the Civil war begins, a newly pregnant Cora returns to her family home in Maine, while Emory enlists in the army. But he chooses to enlist in the Confederate Army, leaving her to ensure the pity and suspicion���when she refuses to consider divorce���of her neighbours and former friends. Both women wind up trapped by the needs of others, even as their situations become progressively more difficult, and especially for Susannah, dangerous. As the South collapses, Susannah's home becomes a refuge for militia���more than half bandits by this time���and hold-outs from the confederate army, Emory among them.
Why five stars: I admire Barbara Hambly's work, full-stop, the meticulousness of her presentation of history, and her eye for the ambiguities in character, the nuances in power-relations, and the accommodations people make to survive. The epistolatory form works so well for this story, especially the device of the unsent letters in which Susanna writes down the things she dare not tell Cora. The reader has to do just enough work to piece together what is implied rather than said, or mentioned and then filled in after, which gives it the flavour of a real correspondence. I love the details of soap-making, foraging, and survival, and they, too, work as expressed in the letters, where they might not fit easily into a conventional narrative....more