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Varina
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Group Reads: Moderator's Choice > Initial Impressions: Varina by Charles Frazier: August 2018

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message 1: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new) - added it

Tom Mathews | 2462 comments Mod
Comments on this board should be written with the assumption that not all readers have finished the book. Please avoid revealing any spoilers.


message 2: by LeAnne: (new) - added it

LeAnne: GeezerMom | 1310 comments My 15 year old and I toured Beauvoir today, and I tried to snap some photos especially relating to Varina. Once theyre on my laptop, Ill drop some in here or in the “final” discussion spot.

Over the years, the rose garden she apparently loved so much was largely destroyed. Katrina did huge damage to that and everything else of course. Winnie, their youngest daughter, once made a sentimental gift for her mom while a child and which helped preservationists replant the garden decades later. She had taken several of her mother’s favorite roses and pressed them in a book. Then she had them framed behind glass.

Miraculously, the two glass frames survived various hurricanes, and from them, botanists were able to identify the variety of roses to re-plant. Nice story!


Sara (phantomswife) | 929 comments That is a lovely story, LeAnne. I'm almost 100 pages in and enjoying this immensely.


message 4: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new) - added it

Tom Mathews | 2462 comments Mod
LeAnne wrote: "My 15 year old and I toured Beauvoir today, and I tried to snap some photos especially relating to Varina. Once theyre on my laptop, Ill drop some in here or in the “final” discussion spot. ..."

Excellent! I probably won\t be starting it until the first of the month.


Sara (phantomswife) | 929 comments I've committed to a lot in August, so I thought I'd better get a start. I'll be ready when the discussion begins.


Connie G (connie_g) | 399 comments Varina Davis seemed to be a strong woman who tried to make the best out of a bad situation. I didn't know anything about Varina so I'm glad I read the book.

I liked reading Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain years ago, and thought he portrayed strong characters whose lives were torn apart by the Civil War well in that book too.

I'm looking forward to seeing your pictures of Beauvoir, LeAnne.


message 7: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane Barnes | 3823 comments Mod
I read Varina when it first came out a few months ago. It's a great book, and learning about a forgotten or unknown character who was sidelined by the history books was fascinating. She was a strong woman whose views on slavery clashed with her husband's. I thought Charles Frazier did an amazing job getting her story across, even with the fictional elements thrown in.


Katrina | 2 comments I, too, read Varina when it first came out. I enjoyed it very much. I haven’t read Cold Mountain so Charles Frazier’s writing style was very different than anything I had read to date. Just before the book was release, I visited the White House of the Confederacy or “Gray House” as Varina called it. Recently I went to see the display of items that the Confederate Museum in Richmond created just for the writings in the book. It surprised me that she she didn’t support “the cause” but stood by her husband. The relationship they had after the war, especially, near Jefferson’s death was fascinating. Especially their living arrangements! I did not know how to feel about Sarah Dorsey! Simply put, I hope Varina David found some joy and some peace- no matter where she sought it in her life. Between her husband having a wandering eye and never being able to let go of his first wife added to having all but one of her children die before her, I have no doubt, her life wasn’t the one she imagine as a girl living In Louisiana.


message 9: by Lawyer, Moderator Emeritus "Lawyer Stevens" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
Katrina wrote: "I, too, read Varina when it first came out. I enjoyed it very much. I haven’t read Cold Mountain so Charles Frazier’s writing style was very different than anything I had read to date. Just before ..."

Thanks for choosing this as your Moderator's choice, Tom. I'm a bit more than a third through and totally absorbed by the novel. This is far different than any of Frazier's previous works. His inclusion of Limber Jimmie is masterful. His portayal of Varina is particularly intriguing. Great choice, Big Daddy.


message 10: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane Barnes | 3823 comments Mod
What Lawyer said. Even though I read this immediately after publication, it's still very fresh in my mind. I felt as though Varina could have been a good friend, had we both lived at the same time. I read Mary Chesnut's diary a few years ago, so knew about the close friendship between them. I recommend it it to anyone interested in the times during, and after, the Civil War.


message 11: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new) - added it

Tom Mathews | 2462 comments Mod
Thank you. I've been reading it for the past few days but other activities have slowed my reading to a crawl. I just read the 'sweaty palm print on the bottom' passage over lunch.

My daughter is currently en route home from Belize and is stuck in Atlanta due to some nasty thunderstorms. If any of you have any influence with the national weather service and could ask them to tone it down I would be exceedingly grateful.


message 12: by Wyndy (new)

Wyndy | 65 comments Giving a shoutout from NC to the National Weather Service. My hubby couldn’t fly home from NY to NC yesterday due to the violent thunderstorms here in the Southeast. Hang in there - at least she’s back in the U.S.


message 13: by Sara (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sara (phantomswife) | 929 comments OK, Tom, just for you, I told them to cut that out. Glad she is almost home.

I agree, Diane, that she seems to have been a person I would have liked. The nicest thing about the book is that you feel you are hearing the story of a real person--the flesh and blood of her comes through. I finished this a couple of weeks back and I am still thinking about it.


message 14: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new) - added it

Tom Mathews | 2462 comments Mod
That seemed to work. She is currently boarding and may be home by 10:30.


message 15: by Sara (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sara (phantomswife) | 929 comments You're welcome. lol.


Vince | 1 comments Sara wrote: "You're welcome. lol."

Just started. So far so good. Interesting its starts in Saratoga. I live nearby. Trying to figure out where 'The Retreat Hotel' was or is. Maybe the Yaddo Conservatorium. Hmmm.....


message 17: by Sara (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sara (phantomswife) | 929 comments Vince wrote: "Just started. So far so good. Interesting its starts in Saratoga. I live nearby. Trying to figure out where 'The Retreat Hotel' was or is. Maybe the Yaddo Conser..."

I love when I find an area I know in a book. Makes it feel so personal. I grew up in Georgia and live right outside of Richmond now. I could almost walk the terrain with her, have seen her grave, the Confederate White House. It does add another dimension to the read. Hope you find the hotel, Vince. Let me know if you do.


message 18: by LeAnne: (new) - added it

LeAnne: GeezerMom | 1310 comments Just on page 11 and already remembering what a great writer Frazier is.


Julie  Durnell | 14 comments I have just started Varina, only on page 30, but Frazier's beautiful storytelling has me hooked already!


message 20: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new) - added it

Tom Mathews | 2462 comments Mod
Julie wrote: "I have just started Varina, only on page 30, but Frazier's beautiful storytelling has me hooked already!"

He does have a great, almost musical style, doesn't he?


Julie  Durnell | 14 comments Tom wrote: "Julie wrote: "I have just started Varina, only on page 30, but Frazier's beautiful storytelling has me hooked already!"

He does have a great, almost musical style, doesn't he?"


It just captivates me! Very lyrical indeed!


message 22: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane Barnes | 3823 comments Mod
Other than the lyrical writing, I loved Varina's voice. Matter of fact, resigned, but never hopeless. You got the sense that she was a woman of great practicality and prudence, and did the best she could with the circumstances she was given.


Tina  | 485 comments I really enjoyed Varina. I want to know more about the real life Varina and how much of this book was real versus fiction.


message 24: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new) - added it

Tom Mathews | 2462 comments Mod
Tina wrote: "I really enjoyed Varina. I want to know more about the real life Varina and how much of this book was real versus fiction."
That's why I nominated Mary Chesnut's A Diary From Dixie.


message 25: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Laura | 1906 comments Mod
Tom You may be able to back me up but when I heard Frazier speak , he was very unwavering when said I write fiction and I take a lot of liberties. He said readers get mad bc all the facts don’t line up but he said this is not a nonfiction book.


message 26: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new) - added it

Tom Mathews | 2462 comments Mod
He said as much when I heard him although I didn't get the impression that anyone took offense to his liberties. I, personally, would appreciate an afterward addressing any major digressions from the truth but I've been told recently that truth isn't truth so I guess it doesn't matter. As he said, though, the book is marketed as a novel so I think the author has every right to say whatever he likes.


message 27: by LeAnne: (new) - added it

LeAnne: GeezerMom | 1310 comments Laura wrote: "Tom You may be able to back me up but when I heard Frazier speak , he was very unwavering when said I write fiction and I take a lot of liberties. He said readers get mad bc all the facts don’t lin..."

My son and I visited Beauvoir last month, as you know, but when I finish the book, I'll probably run back over there. The guide did a really good job with the tour, but there is a museum with all sorts of background info.


message 28: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane Barnes | 3823 comments Mod
I'm not big on in-depth research, but I did a quick Wikipedia check right after I finished the book, and the main points seemed to jive. Jimmy Limber was a real character that she brought into her household, but the adult getting in touch with her was made up.


message 29: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new) - added it

Tom Mathews | 2462 comments Mod
I assumed that was the case.


message 30: by Sara (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sara (phantomswife) | 929 comments I love a historical fiction author who does good research and tries to stick to the basic facts, but some poetic license is allowed, otherwise it would just be history. I thought Varina was nicely done.


message 31: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane Barnes | 3823 comments Mod
I agree, Sara. I read that when Michael Shaara wrote "Killer Angels" his made up conversations between historical characters only used things written by those men in letters and diaries. Now THAT'S research.


message 32: by Sara (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sara (phantomswife) | 929 comments I did not know that. Killer Angels was a marvelous read and it felt completely genuine. You have made me wish to read it again!


message 33: by John (new) - rated it 3 stars

John | 533 comments Virginia City, Montana had originally been named "Varina" after Confederate President Jefferson Davis' wife.

https://billingsgazette.com/news/stat...


message 34: by Sara (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sara (phantomswife) | 929 comments Very interesting article, John. I was amazed it took 2 weeks for the news to reach Montana and then they reported the death of Seward, which was inaccurate. Thanks for sharing.


message 35: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane Barnes | 3823 comments Mod
Interesting John. There was also a town (in Vermont, I think), where the entire town voted to secede from the Union, and did so, in sympathizing with the south. No one there had ever owned slaves, their beef was with the Federal government.


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