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Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  5,878 ratings  ·  364 reviews
Allan Gurganus's Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All became an instant classic upon its publication. Critics and readers alike fell in love with the voice of ninety-nine-year-old Lucy Marsden, one of the most entertaining and loquacious heoines in American literature.

Lucy married at the turn of the last century, when she was fifteen and her husband was fifty. If Colo
Paperback, 736 pages
Published October 16th 2001 by Vintage (first published October 1st 1984)
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Priscilla King Well...the slave characters are caricatures, but so are all the other characters. The main ex-slave character, Cassie, is your basic Black Matriarch A…moreWell...the slave characters are caricatures, but so are all the other characters. The main ex-slave character, Cassie, is your basic Black Matriarch As Seen By Small Scared White Boy. If you define racist as promoting hate or contempt for a "race" of people, I don't think it's racist at all. I think Gurganus, being a satirist, shows a certain amount of contempt for humans in general. Since this book reminds me of nothing at all about either Maddow or Turner Diaries, if they're at the ends of a scale of 1 to 10 I'd give "Widow" a 5.(less)

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Average rating 3.83  · 
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 ·  5,878 ratings  ·  364 reviews

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Courtney Anthony
This book is a gift to anyone who can read English. I realize that many reviews accuse it of being overly long, but it's called Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells ALL, not Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells A Story or Two. The novel is indeed seven-hundred and some pages long, but think of it as an opportunity for settling in and truly getting to know Mrs. Lucille Marsden. Enjoy her narrative while it lasts, because you'll miss her when it's over. Trust me.

It is astounding to me that this
Jul 21, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I could not finish this book. For the most part, every page was a chore. The few times there was a story relayed from the husband's Civil War experience, I was engaged. Otherwise, I found the main character far too abrasive and obnoxious to enjoy myself. She might be very entertaining to sit and talk with, or listen to on a radio program, but for some reason, by reading in this format we had a personality conflict.

Additionally, there was heavy focus on subjects that didn't feel pertinent. Page
Sally Burnell
Jun 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Have you ever picked up a book simply because the title intrigued you? This was just such a book, and once I cracked it open, it became impossible to put it down. It was one of the most compelling and memorable books I have read in years and it has stayed with me all these years since I read it. It is one of the most unforgettable books I have ever read and tells the story of a 15 year old girl, Lucy, who marries a 51 year old Confederate veteran, naively not knowing what she was getting herself ...more
Mar 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Whenever I'm reading this book I remember how much I love it, and yet after I've finished it and moved on to other things I forget it. I don't forget what happens or what it's about - I forgot how much I like it. It's strange.

It's a big old rambling book - the personal recollections of Lucille Marsden, married at fifteen to a Confederate war veteran a good forty years older than her. It's not told in any kind of narrative order, it skips and jumps backwards and forwards through the years, things
Mar 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
While the Civil War battle scenes were very vivid and thrilling, most of the book was about growing up in the South with characters that would bore Tom Sawyer.
Chris Gager
May 12, 2020 rated it liked it
I rescued this hardbound edition some time ago in the dim past. First copyright is from 1984, and this book/edition was published in 1989. Excerpts as short stories appeared in a number of different magazines. As I recall this was a pretty bit hit in its time. I decided to read it based on a short story in a recent(5/2020) edition of The New Yorker. The narrator in this tale sounds very much like the old lady in the antique store in that short story. Both of these narrators reminded me of the wa ...more
Apr 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Possibly the longest book I've read where, when I finished it, I wanted to go back and read it again. As a Northerner, at the time I read it, I was rather clueless about the Civil War and the South. I'm mildly more clued-in these days, but this book helped open up a voice and an attitude for me that had not been there before.

The writing is dramatic, to the point where I'm sure some readers found it too far over the top to deal with. I have read the "scene" of the heroine's mother's childhood enc
Linda B.D.
Mar 20, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Horrible book.I waited a few days & looked at this book again. before I made a final review. This is NOT about the Civil War. Supposedly told by a 100 year old woman to a writer. She told her story of being married to a Confederate War veteran.(After the war). He had PTSD & it sure seems she got it from him. I wish it kept on a straighter path. Too much back & forth from the war to her present time. By her age of 24 yrs old, she had 9 children. It does show exactly what the war was like in 2 ski ...more
Mar 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I read this when it first came out in 2001, and it still sticks in my memory!
Fenixbird SandS
Quoting excerpts from this extraordinary book: "11 days after the fire comes the afternoon of leaving. Children make extra-secret jaunts to the woods. Like going to a zoo, or visiting some charming friend in jail. How strange the furnishings look resting out here, half under tarps. The Brookside glade makes treasures seem more valuable and perfect. A test for beautiful furniture: Does it still look beautiful in a beautiful woods?"

Gurganus' descriptions are vivid, almost liquid! You can breathe
Dec 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my all time favorite books. I read it some years ago, but still have my copy. This should definitely return to my "to read" list.

The narrator, Lucille (Lucy) Marsden, tells the story of her marriage to "Captain" Will Marsden, ostensibly the Civil War's last survivor, whom she married when she was 15 and he was 50. She also tells about her husband's experiences in the war and after, the burning of her mother-in-law's plantation by Sherman's men, and the abduction from Africa of a
This book was a huge best seller in the 80's when it came out but I can't see the appeal.

Lucy married a 50 year old confederate war veteran when she was 15. Reading this book. I actually stopped reading and I thought, there was no way a woman wrote this because of the way the character spoke and the internal monologue thought process. So I looked at the author, and sure enough, it was a man. I knew it. It comes across as an ill-informed man writing about the inner workings of the female mind. So
Mar 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
I read Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All *once* years and years ago (maybe more than 20(?) years ago, now). I can't quite pinpoint exactly what impact this story had on me, but there are times that I *still* think about scenes from this book. Something about it just got into me and stayed put. And I tell you what, give me Lucy Marsden over that annoying Scarlett O'Hara any day.
Didn’t like this book, as it was racist, too pro Southern, and was creepy due to the age difference of the main character and her husband. I only read it for school and while on vacation in the MS Delta.
Warning: racism, hatred of the north, and sexual abuse of a 15 year old bride on her wedding night by her husband as well as graphic details of war
Feb 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This library book, besides being already one of the best books I've ever read, had a bonus: someone had saved some flowers in the pages, pressed and dried but still beautiful.

Now that I finally finished reading this book, I can unequivocally say it's the best book I've ever read, based on the quality of the writing, the story, the development of the characters, the insights into human behavior, including mine, the humor, the honesty, the fact that I could have kept on reading for another 700 pa
Timothy Juhl
May 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Southern bookclubs and anyone looking for great literature.
Shelves: gay-author
Officially, what I consider a tome, Gurganus' masterpiece, is one of the finest examples of historical fiction, and particularly the Civil War.

Forget the dreadful made-for-television movie, forget 'Gone With The Wind'. There is a langorous chapter midway into the story that depicts Sherman's March to the sea, told by the plantation owners and slaves who watched the plumes of smoke from distant homes, knowing their lives would be burned out from under them very soon. The images evoked in this cha
Mary Bettcher
Mar 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I read this book years ago and found it one of the most poignant , funny and at times, achingly sad books I've ever read.The widow is delivering her recollections to an aide at her nursing home circa early 1970's I believe. She had been born some time after the Civil War but her much older husband had been a Confederate colonel. Her recollections stem from his experiences and her own post war memories. The horrors or the Civil War come alive and yet somehow,there were periods of laugh out loud h ...more
Apr 23, 2008 rated it it was ok
Wow I am constantly amazed at how much I dislike books I have a fond memory of enjoying decades ago.
Tracy Towley
May 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
I bought Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All at a thrift store for no reason other than it sounded vaguely familiar. I had zero expectations for this book and overall I'd say it was a good read. It wandered through about 100 years of southern history and told the story of, well, the widow to the oldest living Confederate soldier. There were some pretty problematic things going on though.

The book was written in sort of an interview format, though the only voice we read was that of the widow
Sep 21, 2009 rated it liked it
I'd tried to read this book several times. It is one of the slowest paced but still decent books I've ever read. I'm glad I finally finished, but I can't say I would recommend it to... well, anyone I can think of.

I'm a Civil War buff and I'm always intrigued by the female perspective. The title character (Lucy) is a pretty interesting premise to start with... a young boy went off to war, grew up and got old, and married a young girl. Lucy ends up married to a Confederate veteran and living with
Brian Grover
Jul 11, 2015 rated it it was ok
A big novel, both in narrative scope and in heft, this unfortunately didn't come close to living up to some of the praise on the jacket cover. Lucy Marsden, about to celebrate her 100th year of life, tells her story to an unnamed narrator from the bed of her nursing home, flashing back to her wedding at age 15 (circa 1900) to a Civil War vet in her small North Carolina town that's 30 years her senior, and of their life together. More accurately, it's the story of a segment of that time, starting ...more
Oct 13, 2010 rated it liked it
I probably shouldn't say I read this book because I only read 50 of the 700 pages. I did watch the movie, though. Does that count?

The narrator, Lucille (Lucy) Marsden, tells the story of her marriage to "Captain" Will Marsden, the Civil War's last survivor, whom she married when she was 15 and he was 51!! She also tells about her husband's experiences in the war, the burning of her mother-in-law's plantation by Sherman's men, and the abduction from Africa of a former Marsden slave, midwife to Lu
Jun 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Several of my favorite novels, I have discovered, were written by people who had no business writing a novel like that. This is one of them.

Allan Gurganus managed to write a novel about the past hundred and fifty years in the deep south, in the voice of a woman, while keeping it sincere, engaging, realistic, and entertaining. The characters feel real. Even the people who only inhabit the book for a page. This book takes an historical time and makes it a breathing place; if that distinction makes
Apr 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book so much that I ordered the DVD, but then I love stories about the 1800s.
I could identify with Ms. Marsden because I have raised children. I have been a wife. Some of her insight brought me comfort just knowing that someone else walked down similar paths I have, and even worse. Reading this book made me grateful that I live in a time of peace in our nation. Grateful for the modern day comforts we enjoy. I enjoyed the friendship Ms. Marsden and Castilia came to know. I even fell
Nov 13, 2010 rated it it was ok
I tried really hard to finish this book. While the confederate widow herself was a very colorful character with quite a story to tell, the book was written like a elderly person rambling on and on and on, whether anyone was listening or not. The character bounced back and forth between the past and the present and the present didn't enhance the story at all. I think this story could have been written much better. It has the makings of a really good story. I gave up reading this book.
Feb 22, 2011 rated it liked it
It would have been better at half the length and with 70% fewer characters. It was hard to motivate to read it beyond page 400 or so. Many characters are discussed at various times but their stories are not closed. Stories within are told in no chronological order and it is often difficult to place the current story in the life of the narrator and in relation to other stories (did the baby die before or after the son was blinded?) Interesting voice for the narrator.
Linda Robinson
Aug 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have loaned this book to friends, all of whom couldn't finish it.

Ellen Burstyn opened in a Broadway show of the same name, and it closed that night.

I'm confused. This is a darn good read. And a beautiful first novel!

What do I find fascinating about it? And why don't my friends share?
Jan 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Welp... I'm throwing in the towel. I made it to about the 68% mark...

The 3 stars are for what I did read. And I did like what I read, but this book was just overly long. I think the story and setting of each time in the life of Lucy could have been condensed a little. Who is Lucy? Well, she's the fictional 99 year old woman, the wife of the last confederate soldier telling all. The story follows along her life as she tells it from her bed at the Land's End nursing home she now lives in.

What I l
Jan 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned, book-club
I just can’t do this. The story is interesting enough, but the conversational way the story is told by one very old southern lady is too much to follow. May pick at it a little over time....
Apr 28, 2020 rated it it was ok
Oldest living confederate wisdom tells SOME or even A LITTLE BIT, would have been so much better. This book desperately needed an editor and it was also painfully clear that it was a man trying to write as a woman.
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Since 1989, Allan Gurganus’s novels, stories and essays have become a singularly unified and living body of work. Known for dark humor, erotic candor, pictorial clarity and folkloric sweep, his prose is widely translated. Gurganus’s stories, collected as “Piccoli eroi”, were just published to strong Italian reviews. France’s La Monde has called him “a Mark Twain for our age, hilariously clear-eyed ...more

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