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Martin Dascomb's Civil War

por Ralph F. Leonard

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Añadido recientemente porJonBradley, EarlyReviewers

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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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