Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Book Review A Separate Country by Robert Hicks

A Separate Country
Robert Hicks

I must thank Hachette Books for letting me read this book with such an enticing cover. Before I started reading it, I knew the post my dad retired from was named after John Bell Hood. I had wanted to read about the Confederate General who was so honored. So excited was I when the book arrived, it got moved up to the top of the to be read list.

This book has some beautiful descriptive writing. The best characters are Yellow Jack (Yellow Fever) and the weather in New Orleans. What a horrible way to die; as Hood's wife, oldest daughter, and himself do at the beginning of the novel.

When my father was stationed in Panama the last time, I got to spend lots of time going through New Orleans as it is the port of embarkation and debarkation to the Canal Zone. Imagine putting on makeup, walking outside, and having your makeup ending up around your jaw line and then think of what it was like without air conditioning or our modern dress mode. Or the bugs with no bug spray (although long sleeves did help with that and many people did have netting around the beds)?

My problem was the with the portrayal of General Hood and his wife. I just couldn't see them and it really bothered me.

Anna Marie Hennen was young, lively, bright, and lovely. Well stationed in society, she could have her pick of men. Yet she spots a man sitting off from the group, with his artificial leg off. She was attracted to him.

Here was my problem, human nature has not changed a lot since the Civil War. Lots of people would not ventured toward this man.

How should I know? I am disabled and have been around disabled veterans a lot. They and I have experienced negative reactions from able bodied people. It is a sad commentary but true.

I talked to my 90 year old mother to see if I was wrong about how people reacted to people to the wounded when she was a young Child of the Confederacy, a wife during WWII and Korea. I know about the survivors of Viet Nam. I wrote them while they were stationed overseas and after they came home. I met them at Fort Sam Houston while we were all recovering from whatever. I met them in church. I met them when I went out with hospital staff to clubs where I was thanked for dancing with them. Things have not changed. See my problem; my inability do see her action. Much less, the General taking off his artificial leg in public. As an officer and a gentleman of the South, this would be totally inappropriate, probably just as inappropriate in the North. Somehow they did meet and fall in love but this way just seemed so improbable to me.

As my father was an officer, I have meet several men who became generals or were generals when I met them. The more I read about General John Bell Hood, the less I believed in him and the harder it was to read this novel.

I had to stop reading. I read other's glowing reviews. I had to be nuts.

Then I googled him (http://www.johnbellhood.org/). Both characters are Generals, who were shot through the hand, then had an arm made useless, and then lost a leg while fighting for what they believed was the right thing to do.

As to the character of the man, I didn’t see the character in the book as the one online. What I read online seemed very real. Did he lose some battles? Yes. Was it his fault or that of his commanding officer? When he lost his money, was he the only one or was it part of the time? What kind of strength must a man have to sustained the injuries Hood did and yet carry on in war and after? He married a lovely girl with whom he had 11 children.

My problem is I must find a way to believe in the major characters to really appreciate and get involved in a book; no matter how well the words are put together. If you can believe in the characters, I think will enjoy A Separate Country.


Ms. Lucy said...

Thank you for your frank review- I absolutely agree that the characters need to be believable. Otherwise how can you have a strong story that's worth reading? Thanks:)


Lucy, thank you for your comment. This was the hardest review I have ever written! I mean, how can I like is writing and not the book?