eBook - 2018
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Sooner or later, history asks, which side were you on?

In his powerful new novel, Charles Frazier returns to the time and place of Cold Mountain, vividly bringing to life the chaos and devastation of the Civil War

Her marriage prospects limited, teenage Varina Howell agrees to wed the much-older widower Jefferson Davis, with whom she expects the secure life of a Mississippi landowner. Davis instead pursues a career in politics and is eventually appointed president of the Confederacy, placing Varina at the white-hot center of one of the darkest moments in American history—culpable regardless of her intentions.

The Confederacy falling, her marriage in tatters, and the country divided, Varina and her children escape Richmond and travel south on their own, now fugitives with "bounties on their heads, an entire nation in pursuit."

Intimate in its detailed observations of one woman's tragic life and epic in its scope and power, Varina is a novel of an American war and its aftermath. Ultimately, the book is a portrait of a woman who comes to realize that complicity carries consequences.


From the critics

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Jul 09, 2019

I'm not overly enthused with this story, but for me Cold Mountain is unbeatable. I've tried all Frasier's books, he is most definitely of the Southern attitude, who better to tell these stories? Normally I do not read stories of the South.

Mar 25, 2019

Slow and boring. Varina remains more or less a mystery to the reader.

Mar 24, 2019

If she had not been married to Jefferson Davis, history would not remember Varina Davis. She lived a privileged life in Richmond, sheltered from most of the ravages and savagery of the war. The novel commits the unpardonable sin of being boring, with most of the narrative told as "backstory" rather than unfolding in the present tense.

DCLadults Jan 02, 2019

A New & Noteworthy Best of 2018 pick. The story of the Civil War told by Varina Davis, the first lady of the Confederacy. Varina is strong and fascinating and brings alive the chaos and devastation of the Civil War.

Dec 12, 2018

Frazer, who so captivated his readers in "Cold Mountain," is completely back on form. He invites us across a panoply of historical landscapes from ante-bellum plantations on the Mississippi river to Saratoga Springs and Paris, navigates the heights of Washington society, the collapse of the Confederacy and the sad ruins of the ravaged South. As always, his language is poetic and even musical, and his exploration of the title character - in all her painful negotiations of marriage and family, gender and race - is masterful.

JCLHeatherM Oct 31, 2018

Varina recounts the story of Varina Davis, the First Lady of the Confederacy, from an uncertain childhood that resulted in an arranged marriage, to fleeing for her life after the Confederacy is left in ruins during the Civil War.

Sep 29, 2018

I enjoyed this book but did find it disjointed at times. She was a women of seemingly strong character who was well educated and often seemed an odd fit w/ her husband Jefferson Davis. Given the time she lived it is difficult to judge her too harshly. In death it seems she rejoined her sometimes estranged family and the Confederacy.

ArapahoeStaff26 Sep 24, 2018

A great literary historical novel with a refreshingly bright, self-reliant protagonist who nonetheless gets swept up in the fight for the Confederacy and only too late realizes the full horror of the cause.

Sep 10, 2018

Reads more like creative non fiction than a novel. I finished it because I knew very little about this woman but it was slow going. Doesn’t come close to come close to Cold Mountain.

Aug 07, 2018

This was a beautifully written, interesting historical novel about Jefferson Davis' wife , Varina. It also touches on the devastation in the south from the civil war and it's affect on the lives of soldiers, society, civilians and the slavery issue. The narrative is a little difficult at times but it is worth it.

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