Saturday, July 4, 2009
I'm don't usually read much Civil War material. I often find the non-fiction overwhelming with all the gruesome battle details and the fiction often cloyingly romantic or just plain unbelievable. This book held my attention however, and I found myself very involved in it before I even realized it. Dara Horn has taken the Civil War setting and viewed it fictionally from the perspective of a New York Jew, Jacob Rappaport, who runs away from his family to avoid an arranged marriage and joins the Union army. His Jewish background and language skills land him in the role of a secret agent smuggled into New Orleans to kill his uncle who is involved in a plot to kidnap and/or kill Lincoln. He is so successful at that undertaking (killing the uncle), that he is next assigned to go to Danville Virginia to marry a young lady who is suspected of being the member of another Confederate spy ring. The story has many plot twists, making it often necessary to go back and see who's working for whom. Several times, there are awfully convenient occurences that seem to pull the fat from the fire just in time. And the reader is constantly questioning Rappaport's motivation since he is constantly questioning it himself. The supporting characters are well drawn, and each has a very specific role in the unfolding of the story. I can't even say I won't do spoilers. I just finished this, and really will have to go back and re-read a bit because I'm not sure what happened, or how the story ends. There are certainly questions in my mind about the ending, not so much that I didn't like what happened (I'm not sure I did) but that I'm not sure whether the story really ended, or the reader is left hanging. If so, why? All in all, if you are a civil war fan, you may enjoy this account of the involvement and role of Jewish soldiers and families on both sides of the conflagration. If you're looking for Gone With the Wind, this isn't it, but it's still worth a read.