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Martin Dascomb's Civil War

por Ralph F. Leonard

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Añadido recientemente porritad2, Shookie, SDunn, Louanne, JonBradley, EarlyReviewers

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Martin Dascomb's

Martin Dascomb’s Civil War, Ralph F Leonard ©2020 Black Rose Writing, Fiction 142 pages; 23 cm, ISBN: 9781684335749 1684335744

This novel is a coming of age story and a good deal more. At 13, Martin Dascomb has entered the stage of life that today, we would call the “teen years,” an often-uncomfortable period of life. Thirteen is often an age at which one begins to become not only self-aware but aware of life’s knottier social, political, and emotional issues, and of thoughts and ideas that must be personally grappled with. So, it is with Martin who is the narrator of the novel. Some of the novel’s themes and issues Martin grapples with are ones we still confront in the 21st century.

The Battle of Gettysburg and the Civil War serve as an ever—present backdrop throughout the novel. Set in a New England farm in July 1863, 13-year-old Martin and his parents await the results of the Battle of Gettysburg, where his older brother Ned is heavily engaged. When the Dascomb’s learn that Ned has been killed, the family is plunged into grief. As narrator, Martin has frequently talked about Ned, thus the reader has likely surmised that Ned has some different, more liberal opinions than the norm for the time which has caused friction with others, including their father.

Martin has an encounter with an itinerant black man, Robert Smith, who came looking for him, on his way to enlist in the Union Army. Robert delivers a mysterious letter written to Ned. The letter brings to light a dark secret which threatens to shatter the family. Martin is shaken, disbelieving what the letter says and what that means. Several weeks later, driven by a need to make sense of the letter, Martin steals away in the night, determined to make his way to Montreal and learn the truth about Ned, about the letter writer, Marie, and the child Sophie. Accompanied by Isis, fleeing with her own dreadful secret, the two overcome various travails and entanglements, to reach Montreal.

The time in Montreal is healing. After a short time, Martin returns to the family farm while Isis remains behind to continue mending. In having to confront the realities of an interracial relationship and an interracial child, Martian experience an almost sacred awakening through the gradual reshaping of his views and perspectives, both conscious and unconscious. The novel ends with Martin having learned much and continuing to inwardly grow and mature.

Leonard writes well, handling contemporary dialogue reasonably well. The social norms of the period are well represented as are the challenges of travel in the 1860s The characters are believable and the historical detail adds elements that may be surprising to the modern reader. The occasional use of the literary device of time shifting, while useful, does require the reader to remain alert to avoid confusion.

Fundamentally, the novel is a tale about the complexities and messiness of human relationships. It also shows that the human spirit can be resilient and adaptable to the diversity ever present in life and relationships. Readers may well find elements of the novel that speak to their own beliefs and struggles. ( )
  SDunn | Mar 28, 2021 |
Esta reseña ha sido escrita por los Primeros Reseñadores de LibraryThingSUB2>.
Setting any new novel during the American Civil War (1861-1865) is a task not for the faint of heart. According to reliable surveys, there have been over 60,000 books published with the Civil War as the narrative background. Further, how does any author compete with the two best selling novels grounded in the era; namely, "The Red Badge of Courage" (1895) and "gone with the Wind" (1936).

According to a 2014 Harris Poll, "Gone" was ranked by American readers as the second most popular book with an estimate of over 30-million copies printed world-wide. "Red", on the other hand, was ranked as the 30th (out of 100) most definitive novels written in English by Robert McCrum in the April 2014 issue of "The Guardian".

Using the seminal years of the Civil War carries some risks. Notwithstanding the overarching drama and many already formed opinions, there is the constant theme of incredible sorrow of so many families with so many mostly young men lost. Therefore, some praise has to be proffered to Ralph Leonard for his tale of the Dascomb family.

In many ways, the Battle of Gettysburg and the Civil War are tangents to an adolescent boy's search (Martin) for his older brother's (Ned) secret. Set in a small family farm in New Hampshire, the tale revolves around Ned's wounding/death and a mysterious letter delivered by an itinerant Black man. Martin feels compelled to seek the meaning of the letter and, overcoming various travails and entanglements, travels to Montreal with friend Isis.

The novel - in many ways - is about a single spiritual awakening coupled with the realities of what we might now term inter-racial offspring.

Leonard writes well. The dialogue is clear, although attempts at some contemporary dialects confuses rather than clarifies. The tale often shifts time periods and this literary technique can confuse the less attentive reader. Nonetheless, the societal norms of the period are well represented as are the difficulties of travel in the 1860s. An interesting oddity, eye-opening to some, may be a sign posted at a hotel in Montreal:

Ames Boarding House
Jews, Negros welcome
No Irish

At base, a novel about human acceptance and understanding. A tale of the diversity of the human spirit and the complications that all human interactions involve. This reviewer is convinced that individual readers will find elements that resonate with their own unique beliefs and codes. ( )
  JonBradley | Feb 7, 2021 |
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