Other reviewers have described The Last Waltz as poetry and I agree with them. Of all the stories I read by one of my favorites, Murray Pura, this story flows elegantly and poetically through a day in the life of a man and a woman, Mitchell and Charity Davis, enduring the War Between the States.
Set in the heat of the Civil War, Carrie Fancett Pagels‘ novella revolves around the amazing and REAL Shirley Plantation where wounded soldiers were treated in exchange for protection from the ravages of war that destroyed many of the plantation homes of the south, wreaking havoc and misery on all races and persons.
This story approaches a unique point of view for the War and Emancipation.Several of the main characters are of mixed race ancestry. They are in a more risky position and disrespected by evil on both sides of the war of mixed race ancestry. Not much detail is provided in the story (it is a novella and not a long book) about their parents, except that at least two sets of parents appear to be a love match which was illegal if not uncommon during the era.
The Northern balance character, Michael Scott was raised in the North, but conscripted by the Confederacy to serve in that army. “Shanghaied” is a fitting term as he was snatched off the streets of a non-identified southern Ohio town.
During the time that Shirley Plantation was set up as a field hospital to care for the wounded and dying, particularly Union soldiers, the Shirley family were active participants in the care giving; one member of the family, Dr. Carter served as surgeon and doctor for the patients. In this story, the plantation inhabitants, free and slave worked the fields to produce food for the patients. The Carter family and their slaves practice Christianity and employ faith. When the Union armies first arrive, the family makes every effort to protect the light skinned people by including them in the family story. Faith and obedience to God’s will shows up in the story multiple times when that will worked out better than the obedient expected. Scott and another friend see their faith strengthened and renewed through their experiences.
As expected, all ends well with Angelina and Matthew returning North with safe passage in the height of war. A sweet romance with no profanity, violence or steamy sex scenarios.
You can let your home schoolers read about historic events safely and set them onto research about the Shirley Plantation.
The author is familiar with Shirley Plantation and clearly loves the historical spot. I know it is a novella, but I would have enjoyed even more detail about the buildings and furnishings. Images that we do have show an unusual architecture, different from the typical Antebellum plantation that we see in movies. Given that the plantation is noted as the first plantation in Virginia (1613) and the oldest family-owned business in the United States, I expect one should not expect a movie appearance.
Bohea! Learned something new when I thought I found a type to end all typos! I was certain from the flow of the story that the intention was TEA, but this arrangement of letters looked as if the writer dropped her head on the keyboard. Fingers couldn’t have made such a typo! BUT it is not a typo; it is the name of a very strong, black tea from China which was popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. Later,(after Civil War times) the name bohea was ascribed to an inferior tea grown late in the season, according to Wikipedia.
The book is not a high pressure adventure or angst filled drama. It is a pleasure read about things that are fictional, but almost certainly occurred in some form and fashion. While I may have wished for more detail about architecture and furnishing, it performs the task of a novella. The story is told with necessary information to get us from the first page to the last and is satisfying in that format. There are other places where I can learn more about the way Shirley Plantation looked in 1862. Meeting these form requirements with a decent presentation and excellent editing go a long way with me when I’m reading a book about anything.
I had one problem with my Kindle Fire, plus my Kindle PC app and the formatting. That was solved by simply reading the book with a white background as the formatting is odd with the sepia background. Random lines are selected and appear white. White is not the highlight color for the sepia background. This condition in no way the quality of the story, simply the delivery. I found a quick solution so I could continue reading and enjoying.
The descriptive content reminds me of portions of “A Man in Full” by Tom Wolfe.
The book is short and ends abruptly, but then how would a happy ending work out.
Gladiator is also reviewed at Ozarks Mystique, online stores and Goodreads