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The Rebel Wife

3.20  ·  Rating details ·  1,365 ratings  ·  263 reviews
Brimming with atmosphere and edgy suspense, The Rebel Wife presents a young widow trying to survive in the violent world of Reconstruction Alabama, where the old gentility masks a continuing war fueled by hatred, treachery, and still-powerful secrets.

Augusta Branson was born into antebellum Southern nobility during a time of wealth and prosperity, but now all that is gone

Hardcover, 304 pages
Published February 7th 2012 by Simon Schuster
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Average rating 3.20  · 
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 ·  1,365 ratings  ·  263 reviews

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Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This book starts out well enough: it’s reasonably well-written and has good descriptions and a vivid depiction of life in Reconstruction-era Alabama. Nevertheless, I wound up quite disliking it; this seems like a novel that would appeal to a certain subset of historical fiction readers, but not to everyone.

In a small Alabama town in 1876, Augusta Branson’s husband dies a mysterious, bloody death in their bedroom. Augusta quickly realizes that everyone around her has their own agenda, that she do
Augusta (Gus) Branson finds herself widowed after her husband dies of a mysterious blood fever and a bit surprised when the executor of her husband's will breaks the news that she's not exactly a well-to-do widow. But wait, is there something else going on here? What is this missing saddle bag of her husband's that former slave Simon is searching high and low for? And who would want to stop Simon and Gus from getting it? Or perhaps Gus has been hitting that laudanum bottle too heavy and she's im ...more
This book’s title and description captivated me the first time I saw it at my bookstore (by the way, did I mention I got a side job at my local bookstore?). When I first opened its crisp new pages, I was expecting to be whisked off to one of my favorite places: the Civil War-era South, with rows upon rows of cotton fields and Southern manners and a high society coping with their loss of money, relations, and culture.

Instead, I got the poor man’s version of Gone with the Wind. At 282 pages, it is
This is a dark,Southern Gothic story of the Restoration era. A young woman,widowed after a decade long unhappy marriage, finds herself surrounded by servants, family and a community that she doesn't trust.
Augusta has been raised in the lap of shabby southern gentility, then wed into "Northern" money and shunned for it, then brought back into the fold after the husband dies. And as was the norm in the era, her husband's estate was left to her young son. Instead of a the trustee being Augusta or
Tara Chevrestt
The Rebel Wife. Key word, attention grabbing word: REBEL. Uh.. what makes the heroine of this book a rebel?

I made it to page 113 before just setting it aside...probably for good. Gus is newly widowed, okay. Her husband had a gruesome death. Okay. But again, what makes her a rebel??? She never spoke up to her husband when he was alive, doesn't really speak up enough to the Judge who is now taking control of her estate, doesn't speak up to her "servants" who talk to her in a way she doesn't approv
Burgandy Ice
Feb 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is very interesting and unique.

It takes place in 1875 in the Deep South. The Civil War is over, but emotional upheaval continues boiling in the south over civil rights. I was reminded of The Help as I read how Gus related to the servants. She loves Emma, who raised her, but now she's feeling jealous of her son's love for Emma. But this book evokes more parallels with Gone with the Wind, which I haven't read, and the beautiful southern belle.

I thoroughly enjoyed the author's dive into
Stuart Smith
Sep 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
At its core this is a novel of freedom set in a time when freedom was questioned for so many across the south. Polites really hones in on the desperate tones of Augusta, her staff and those in town fearful of sickness. And in that desperation is an excitement that really keeps a reader enthralled and keeps the pages turning. Like Augusta, I (as a reader of her story) didn’t know who to trust and who to believe. The mystery really gives this novel some juice.

The moment in the book that grabbed me
Jul 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: debut-novels
This is a stunning debut novel with a little of something for everyone--and I mean that in a good way. There is history (how many novels conclude with a six page bibliography?), there is character development, and there is an element of suspense. What is most admirable is the writer's style. He sketches out the bones of the small Alabama town of Albion (fictional) and its characters. Then, after the death of her husband, as narrator Augusta (Gus) awakens to the reality of her world and the dece ...more
I have to be honest, I am not really a fan of this book, although I enjoyed the second half far more than I enjoyed the first half. My major concern is the writing. To me, the writing was extremely slow paced, although the second half went by much faster. Also, the earlier flashback scenes seemed to be faster as well. The writing was especially dragging when the author got caught up in the details and really set the scene. He would describe every minute bit of the scene and it would take away fr ...more
Sharon Huether
Nov 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
The Rebel wife by Taylor M Polites Thankyou Goodreads. This was a wonderful book. The story took place after the slaves were freed, some had no place to go, so they remained with their former owners. It was the Antebellum South. A young widow whoes relatives and late husband, were not the most honest of men. She was very strong in her beliefs of what was right and what should be hers from her late husbands estate. It wasn't only herself, but she had a young son and loyal servants she wanted to h ...more
The Lit Bitch
Nov 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Saturated in rich, golden prose Taylor Polites’s novel, The Rebel Wife, oozes engrossing detail and with such a commanding voice/tone from the first page….I found it difficult to put down. The novel contains whispers of literary delight from beloved American classics such as Gone with the Wind and is told with a dark edge which echos William Faulkner.

Just as the blazing cover suggests, this novel radiates from within….a golden Southern Gothic novel sure to win the hearts and admiration of many r
May 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
We first meet Augusta "Gus" Branson as her husband, Eli, is dying a slow, painful death. Gus is shut off from all feelings. As a former Southern belle, she has been shielded and babied all her life. It is as if she exists in a bubble of ignorance of everything around her. The South has lost the Civil War and it has been ugly. Former slaves are now wage-earning employees. Gus is being faced with the challenges of life without her protector in the dangerous Reconstruction Era. Layer by layer, the ...more
Jul 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even staying up late to finish it in one day. A review quoted on the cover calls it a "fascinating, genre-subverting historical novel." I couldn't agree more--the book jacket might lead you to expect an apologist postbellum romance or some other garbage. This is not that. This is historical fiction--not romance--at its best.

The Rebel Wife is written in first person, and the tone evokes the personality of the heroine from the start. Gus is cold, detached, and calc
Oct 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Impressive command of the era's politics and history, without that getting in the way of the story, which was also excellently told. I kept turning the pages, thinking here the author will indulge himself in what for me is a breather, with pages of digression, those boring bits that I often skim through, but it never happened.

Gus Branson, the rebel wife of the title, must deal with her husband's horrible death - by poison? Disease? He was a "scalawag," a southerner who cooperated with the Union
Jan 08, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2012
I won this book as a Goodreads Giveaway Winner. I was very excited to begin it and anticipated the book showing up in my mailbox. Unfortunatly, I found this book very flat and dull. I had to force myself to read it and finish it. It was very forgetable to me and I went whole days at a time without a thought of it before I remembered that I was reading it and should finish it. The majority of the characters were flat and predictable, some I even wondered why they even had a place in this story.

Nov 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
I received this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways.

First of all, I believe this book is far from a light and easy read, which explains why it took so long for me to finish it. But this does not go to say that the book isn't fantastic.

The book is hard to get into. I found myself either confused or bored during some moments. Early on, I also found Gus unlikeable. As the story progressed, though, I was really pulled in. It is very suspenseful and the setting of the war-torn South, plagued b
Shari Larsen
Mar 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Augusta Branson is a young widow trying to survive in the violent world of Reconstruction Era Alabama. When her scalawag husband dies, ( man she was to forced to marry by her mother) dies of a mysterious illness, at first she is relieved to finally be a widow, but when she finds that the fortune she expected to inherit is gone, she is forced to fend for herself and her young son. She slowly awakens to the new reality of her life; her social standing is stained because of her marriage, she is alo ...more
Real rating: 3.5 stars.

I very much enjoyed the writing style - the present tense, almost stream of consciousness feel, the extremely vivid descriptions. It really kept me in the moment. I also liked the Gone With the Wind era setting (though a decade or so later). It's not the South's finest moment, but a compelling stage for a drama. My main gripe was that this particular drama was so narrowly focused. The plot consisted only of finding one hidden object with a number of obstacles simmering in
Dec 23, 2011 rated it liked it
This would have been a really good novel as it has more historical details about what happened to the Southern towns after the Confederate defeat in Civil War. It talks about the former slaves still working for their families and often-times not getting paid; it talks about the Reconstruction and the Carpetbaggers taking over; it talks about trying to define the new roles and talks about the horrors of the KKK being formed and talked about racism. However, if this was to be a mystery, it did a p ...more
Jan 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
I was hoping to win this book from Goodread and I'm happy I did. From the very first page I enjoyed the vivid descriptions... "The humidity hung in the air like wet sheets shimmering in the sunlight.". I enjoyed the realistic aspect, not romanticizing the aftermath of the Civil War. Times were hard both financially and emotionally for the South as the nation was rebuilt. Looking through Augusta's eye, the reader glimpses the turmoil brought on by the early civil rights movement and the uncertain ...more
Feb 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I LOVED THIS BOOK!!!!!!! The imagery was rich and full, the symbolism of the plague coming but also coming in the form of the White Knights, a potential husband immediately after the death of Gus' husband, the frantic search for the missing pouch, all the secrets Gus' husband kept from her, herself realizing she was no better than a slave, was traded to her husband for a chest of confederate notes...I could go on and on.
I think I need to re-read this book again, at another time, at a slower pac
Sep 24, 2012 rated it it was ok
It was okay. I think a die-hard Southerner would like this more than I did, because it seems like Southerners love to read about the Civil War. This book dealt with post-war Alabama, with the main character a Scarlett O'Hara clone. The only thing that kept me reading was I wanted to find out if she ever found the money that she and her hired hand were looking for (in between complaining about how hot it was, and flashbacks to before the war, flashbacks to what men told her happened during the wa ...more
Dec 31, 2011 rated it liked it
Well, this was written in the genre that I enjoy the most and that is Civil War, pre and post war. This book kept my attention enough to finish the book, but truthfully, I am glad this was just a library loan as I would not have wanted to spend money to buy it. I only read this book because of all the hype that there was about it. The hype was a waste of time and money as this is not the book that they lead everyone to believe. It's a hard book to follow and very slow.

However, I was right with t
This book was not really what I expected, but I enjoyed it. It was much more raw and really showed what everyone was going through at this specific time in Alabama. Through the writing I could really feel everyone's high emotions and the struggles of each character. It really made me appreciate the struggles of both women and freedmen in the South after the Civil War. I believe the author did some extensive research for this novel. Though it was sad and a little crazed at time, I liked the endin ...more
Nov 14, 2011 rated it liked it
I absolutely loved the back drop for this book! I was born in the South so I always have an affinity for books that can transport me there. Obviously, Ms. Polites definitely has a way with words. However, I found that the use of too many words may have taken away from the way the story unfolded. Sometimes less is more.
May 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
There were numerous things that I enjoyed about this book. First off, there was a light gothic feeling to it which I think is typical for the period it was written. Second, I love historical fiction novels which are, obviously, well researched and this one was. Third, the characters were well developed and the storyline didn't stick to something dry. ...more
Frau Sorge (Yuki)
Using the Southern Gothic tradition to explode literary archetypes like the chivalrous Southern gentleman, the good mammy, and the defenseless Southern belle, The Rebel Wife shatters the myths that still cling to the antebellum South and creates an unforgettable heroine for our time.

Well, does it, really?

(Shh.. it doesn't.)

Miranda Lane
May 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Excellently captured the tumultuous post-Civil War era. Kept me hooked throughout its entirety with its engaging writing style and character depth. Would recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.
Jul 24, 2014 rated it liked it
I ended up liking the book. I would have rated it higher if the 1st half the book read like the last fourth. Good character development of Gus from the beginning of the novel when she becomes a widow to the end of the novel when she..... Well, I won't give it away. ...more
Jessica Jewett
Feb 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is much closer to the reality of a Southern woman's life in the Reconstruction period than most other novels I've read. Gus makes the reader feel her claustrophobia and uninformed life with every word. I was very pleasantly surprised by this story. ...more
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Sinopsis en Español // Synopsis in Spanish 1 2 Feb 24, 2015 05:24PM  
Husband's Illness 5 11 Jun 12, 2014 05:22PM  

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Taylor M. Polites is a novelist living in Providence, Rhode Island with his small Chihuahua, Clovis. He graduated in June 2010 with his MFA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University. He has lived in Provincetown, Massachusetts, New York City, St. Louis and the Deep South. He graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a BA in History and French and spent a year studying in Caen, France ...more

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