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Varina

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  7,226 ratings  ·  1,177 reviews
In his powerful fourth novel, Charles Frazier returns to the time and place of Cold Mountain, vividly bringing to life the chaos and devastation of the Civil War.

With her marriage prospects limited, teenage Varina Howell agrees to wed the much-older widower Jefferson Davis, with whom she expects a life of security as a Mississippi landowner. He instead pursues a career in
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Hardcover, 356 pages
Published April 3rd 2018 by Ecco
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Julie The book is about Varina not about slavery. I think Varina lived in her intellectual ivory tower. She viewed Ellen as her friend and was genuinely…moreThe book is about Varina not about slavery. I think Varina lived in her intellectual ivory tower. She viewed Ellen as her friend and was genuinely baffled and a bit hurt that Ellen didn't view her in the same way. Ellen cherished her freedom. Ellen was keenly aware that Varina was her owner and that she was a slave. Varina did indeed rescue a mixed race child Jimmy Limber. She also reared him with her own children. I sincerely doubt that Varina ever saw the horrors of slavery. Her family struggled financially and lived in town. The Davis "plantation" was Jeff's brother's experiment in social harmony. They were definitely eccentric and not typical Southern planters. Varina knew the south was headed for disaster and was very opposed to the war. She did indeed feel that women's suffrage would have prevented the war. She was always an outlier, not accepted in women's "society". She was the victim of slander and bullying. She had family in the north and in the south. Varina was very well educated but realized bitterly the limitations society imposed on her as a woman.(less)
Jane Greensmith Varina Howell Davis
James Brooks (Jimmie Limber)

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3.68  · 
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 ·  7,226 ratings  ·  1,177 reviews


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Diane S ☔
3.5 Frazier one again returns to the Civil War, with mixed reactions from this reader. I freely admit to not knowing what became of some of the principal players after the Southern defeat in said war, so I can in no way pinpoint accuracies or inaccuracies in this telling. This is narrated from the viewpoint of Varina Davis, fleeing Richmond after Lee's surrender. At her side, her remaining children, a young black boy named James, a black woman, and a few trusted protectors.

This was, I felt, the
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Diane Barnes
Apr 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not one to jump on the bandwagon of every new fiction published, but sometimes, if it's an author I've read before, or if I'm certain there will be reviews and interviews and hype, then I like like to get ahead of the crowd and form an opinion based on the book itself, instead of what others think. That happened with this book, as I loved Cold Mountain 20 years ago, and of course, Civil War historical fiction is right up my alley. The library cooperated by getting it to me promptly (I was fi ...more
Cheri
"Haven't you seen me sleepwalking 'cause I've been holding your hand
Haven't you noticed me drifting
Oh
Let me tell you I am
Tell me it's nothing
Try to convince me that I'm not drowning
Oh
Let me tell you I am

"Why I am feeling so guilty
Why I am holding my breath
Worry about everyone but me and I just keep losing myself
Tell me it's nothing
Try to convince me that I'm not drowning
Oh
Let me tell you I am"


-- Falling, The Civil Wars, Songwriters: Joy Williams / John White
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qdk3.
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Diana
I loved Cold Mountain. But after about 50 pages, I didn't really care about this, and life is too short to force yourself to read things.
Melissa Crytzer Fry
Early reviews of this book are mixed; but being the enthusiast that I am for Civil War-era fiction and strong female protagonists, I really enjoyed it. That this novel is based on a real person in history makes it doubly interesting (though I would have liked to have known which parts were based on fact and which were fictionalized. Perhaps the final version, unlike the ARC, will reveal some of this information in an Author’s Note). Just Google Varina Davis and Jefferson Davis wedding photo for ...more
Jeanette
No rating, although I can't imagine that it would be above a 2 regardless. This was not readable to me. I only got to page 72, life is just too short for me not to find a better read. It jumps and to me there is next to no continuity in the directional lines. Plus I've seen the places she lived and one house for many years in particular- and this just does NOT mesh with her words I read there (clothes of hers I saw too) or her artifacts' history.

But it was primarily the forms of the prose used.
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Rebekah O'Dell
Apr 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not a book for those who love plot, but a delight for those who love character and strange, beautiful sentences. I have rarely read so slowly just to savor the words. One of my favorite books I’ve read in the last ten years!
Lawyer
Varina: The Consequences of Complacency

Varina by Charles Frazier was chosen as a Group Read by members of On the Southern Literary Trail for August, 2018.

“—Oh, Mary said, life is mostly just what happens. Choice or chance or fate, gods or not. Like it or not. Things happen, we do what we think is in our best interests or just convenient, and then we live with the consequences.”


I have admired the writing of Charles Frazier since his first novel, Cold Mountain received the National Book Awar
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Truman32
Apr 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I recently discovered these Civil War letters in the attic from my relative, Jubal Burnside who fought at Shiloh, Chickamauga, and several other bloody campaigns. I have transcribed them in their entirety for your information and interest.

“My precious Clara,

We are now awaiting steamers to transport the troops to Christiana. The division is to garrison for the rest of the summer, a most disgusting prospect, and a fate I hope to escape.

The weather is delightful, but very hot and there is the grea
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Connie
"Being on the wrong side of history carries consequences. V lives that truth every day."

Varina Howell Davis, the wife of the Confederate President Jefferson Davis, was a strong woman who faced many challenges in her life. Set in 1906, the elderly Varina talks about her life with James, a multiracial man, on six Sunday afternoons. When James was four years old, Varina rescued the orphaned boy from an abusive situation. She raised him with her children until the Confederacy fell. The family fled s
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Laura
Apr 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don’t know how accurate the story is compared to history but Frazier convinced me this is the voice of Varina. Something about NC authors and one name female titles seem to always be a great read. I only lack reading one more Frazier book, all are so different than the other. Highly recommend this author and any one of his books.

Update: Listened to Frazier speak last night and he’s absolutely charming. He did take liberties because it’s fiction but some material was direct quotes from letters.
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Sara
By the flow of the inland river,
Whence the fleets of iron have fled,
Where the blades of the grave-grass quiver,
Asleep are the ranks of the dead:
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day;
Under the one, the Blue,
Under the other, the Gray

One of the hardest wars to understand, for me, is the American Civil War. Perhaps it was unavoidable, but it never seems that way. It is so easy to stand outside of it and condemn the South, but the South was a collection of people, and each one held
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Amy Hartle
Mar 01, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
I could not find a thread to cling to. 70 pages in and I’m too bored
Fred Shaw
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Varina is a beautifully written historical novel by Charles Frazier, author of Cold Mountain. It is the story of Varina Davis, wife of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, during the American Civil War. The author has a wonderful talent to make the 1860’s live again in landscapes and reverential traditions of the old South.

Married at 17 to a man 30 years her senior, Varina’s life was one continuous time of suffering. While married during the Civil War, not only did she witness the bru
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Kathryn Bashaar
I loved Cold Mountain, but this effort by the same author frustrated me. It is a fictionalized memoir of Varina Davis, First Lady of the Confederate State of America. The story is told on multiple timelines. One takes place in 1906, when she is reunited with an African-American man whom she had adopted as her own during the Civil War, but from whom she was separated when Richmond fell. Another follows her harrowing experience as a fugitive as the Civil War drew to a brutal close. And, finally, t ...more
Barbara
Many years ago I read Cold Mountain and remember thinking, it's a good story, but something about it I don't like. This happened again with Varina. I think Frazier's writing is fragmented. It doesn't flow. Again, Varina is an interesting woman and I plan on reading a biography about her. Some of Frazier's insights on war, life, grief, and death were thought-provoking. iIn the current discussions of constitutional interpretation, Jefferson Davis' regret of no trial to defend his constitutional ri ...more
Nicole Alexander
"Civilization balances always on a keen and precarious point, a showman spinning a fine Spode dinner plate on a long dowel slender as a stem of hay. A puff of breath, a moment’s lost attention, and it’s all gone, crashed to ruination, shards in the dirt. Then mankind retreats to the caves, leaving little behind but obelisks weathering to nubs like broken teeth, dissolving to beach sand.”

As a fan of Cold Mountain (which I reread before delving into Varina) I consumed Varina in 3 days. This is unu
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Julie  Durnell
Aug 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: southern
Charles Frazier writes historical fiction extremely well and the novel Varina is no exception. She comes across as a very sad but strong woman who experienced so much in her life as First Lady of the Confederacy. Jefferson Davis is not a major player in this novel but is integral to the overall story. The people who were close to her were well drawn and helped flesh out her personality. I can't say this was an uplifting story, but then there aren't too many Civil War era books that are, but this ...more
Julie
Jan 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One does not expect to have sympathy for the First Lady of the Confederacy, one does not expect to care one whit for her pain and suffering. Frazier does the impossible. There are few books that I intend to read again in the future, this is one.
Sterlingcindysu
May 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Jefferson Davis, Varina and their children are buried at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond.

Fun fact--two US presidents are buried there (Monroe and Tyler) and you can have your ashes interred there for $10,000 in President's Circle. It's a very pretty cemetery. Your relations can "visit" you and then go get hot Krispie Kremes!

This was a slow book for me. Any book that features a caravan moving by mules that only goes 5-10 miles a day is dragging, and that's how the book went for me. I was also cau
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David
Jun 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a mighty fine, fairly traditional piece of historical fiction. The poetic beauty of the language is its strongest element, and there is seldom a page that does not contain something worth slowing down to savor. Frazier's writing is not particularly florid or exotic; he just has a knack for assembling everyday language in a manner that is anything but quotidian.

In this book he revisits the American Civil War, territory that served him well twenty years ago when "Cold Mountain" received th
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KC
There is much we know about the Civil War-the North fighting the South, brother fighting brother, but many of us may be unaware as to what happened to Jefferson Davis, to his wife and family after the Confederacy falls. Charles Frazier allows us a glimpse into the life of Varina Howell, a young educated woman who marries a much older Davis along with the pains and sufferings of war, loss, family, and the struggle between humans. While we move back and forth in time throughout this tale there is ...more
Dan Radovich
Feb 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Oh what a joy to read the gorgeous prose of Frazier again. With so many people today screaming 'Tear down the statues' in America's South, who would imagine a novel detailing the life of The First Lady of the Confederacy? The impeccable language which Frazier uses to tell his tale is a testament to his skill. You can hear the cadence of each character in your mind as you read Varina's story. She imagined a life of ease being the wife of a well-to-do Mississippi landowner; only to find that dream ...more
Jody
Apr 21, 2018 rated it liked it
The protagonist of Charles Frazier's fourth novel is a remarkable figure, albeit one who has been largely forgotten in the modern historical imagination. For four terrible years, from February 1861-May 1865, Varina Howell Davis was First Lady of the Confederacy. Born into plantation life at Natchez in 1826, Varina's father declared bankruptcy when she was 13, and the family became dependent upon the benefaction of her wealthy maternal relatives. In 1843, Varina was sent to spend a summer at Hurr ...more
Anna
Apr 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Celia
May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Varina, by Charles Frazier

Charles Frazier, author of Cold Mountain, has released a new historical fiction about Varina Howell Davis, Jefferson Davis’ wife.

Synopsis
The book starts based on the memory of James Blake. As a child in Richmond, James was rescued by V when she saw him being beaten in the streets. Now, James is looking for his rescuer, V, some forty years later, wondering if he will recognize her and she him. They had been separated soon after the Civil War ended.

James does not remember
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Camie
Aug 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is about Varina, the second wife of Jefferson Davis when he was appointed President of the Confederacy during the Civil War. The first 60 pages or so are confusing because they are mostly told by "Limber " Jimmie who was a young black boy when Varina rescued and adopted him into her family of 6 children. "Limber " Jimmie as an adult (James) has many questions for Varina and though they have sadly been separated by the war luckily they will meet up again later bringing some answers.
So
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Linda
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've given a rating of 4 to each of his other three books, but this one he REALLY knocked out of the park. Some years back I visited the Confederate White House and the wonderful museum next door. Nothing was said about Varina that encouraged me to read more about her, which was a shame. We frequently hear all about men and their role in history, but very little about women. Varina's story deserves to be told, and Frazier does an incredible job with it. I had to frequently remind myself this was ...more
Joy D
Historical fiction set initially in 1906 about the life of Varina Howell Davis, wife of the president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, as told to James Blake aka Jimmie Limber, an African American man she had rescued from a brutal beating when he was very young and has not seen in over forty years. He was taken into her household, included as a playmate with her children, and accompanied her family as they fled Richmond as fugitives on the way to Florida. James, now a teacher, locates Varina ...more
Bruce Katz
May 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is one i'm going to recommend a lot, particularly to readers who enjoy literary historical fiction. Quietly powerful, thoughtful, touching, revelatory. Frazier's portrait of Varina Davis (wife of Confederate President Jefferson Davis) abjures drama -- quite a feat in that the Civil War is the axis on which the novel spins -- and instead looks indirectly at gender, race, marriage, friendship, and other complicated human relationships. And yet Varina's life is indeed filled with drama: h ...more
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Charles Frazier is an award-winning author of American historical fiction. His literary corpus, to date, is comprised of three New York Times best selling novels: Nightwoods (2011), Thirteen Moons (2006), and Cold Mountain (1997) - winner of the National Book Award for Fiction.


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“Take a king or a president or anybody. Put a heavy sack of gold in one hand and a feather-light declaration about freedom in the other. And then an outlaw sticks a pistol in his face and says give me one or the other. Every time—every ten out of ten —he'll hug the sack and throw away the ideals. Because the sack’s what’s behind the ideals, like the foundation under a building.” 5 likes
“Children don’t judge their own lives. Normal for them is what’s laid before them day by day. Judgment comes later.” 4 likes
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