Friday, August 27, 2010

A Separate Country by Robert Hicks

In A Separate Country, Robert Hicks takes the reader to post-Civil War New Orleans.  The book follows the life of General John Hood and his family in this period.   General Hood came to New Orleans as a feared and respected man, a Confederate general who led forces and unleashed chaos upon the land.

After the war, he flounders trying to find what his new life will be.  Grievously injured with one leg missing and one arm that won't work, he isn't sure he even knows how to fit into society when he isn't needed to lead men to war.  He finds his purpose when he meets and marries Anna Marie Hennen, a famous New Orleans society beauty.  Hood and Anna Marie have eleven children. 

Hood introduces the reader to the intricacies of Southern society.  There are cotton brokers, lotteries, freed slaves now attempting to make a living, and men in societies formed for the sole purpose of refusing African-Americans their rights.  There are many orphans who also claw and fight for a chance at a new life once their family ties have been cut asunder by war.  There are men that learn to fit in, and those who are so damaged by the war that they never find redemption.

This book is highly recommended for lovers of historical fiction.  It is rife with complex characters.  There is Rintrah and Pascale, orphans who run away from the orphanage and carve out lives for themselves.  Pascale has both black and white heritage and sometimes passes as a white man, a scheme for which he pays dearly.  Rintrah is a dwarf who fights and schemes until he controls much of the underworld of the city.  Father Mike is a priest who isn't priestly, except when the yellow fever plague arrives.  He recruits all these characters along with John Hood to fight the plague and try to save the poor people of the city who are it's first and most severely affected victims. 

Hicks has created a city where the reader feels they could walk down the streets and encounter people they know.  The characters are intricate and Hicks outlines the various relationships that tie them together.  He explores what it means to be a man at war, and a man who seeks redemption.  This is an extremely satisfying book, and readers won't be disappointed. 

1 comment:

Taminator said...

I just could never get into this one--loved Hicks's first (Widow of the South) but this one just dragged from the beginning for me. Nicely reviewed, however. :)