Today’s team review is from Terry. She blogs here https://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.com/
Terry has been reading I Jonathan, A Charleston Tale of the Rebellion by George W B Scott
Jonathan Vander is marooned in Charleston on his way back to his hometown of Boston, just as the Civil War is brewing. Circumstances leave him with nothing but the shirt on his back, but he makes himself a life there. He does not fight in the war; this is more of a social than a military history, showing how the war affected the people during and for many years after.
The book is written as though a third hand true story; as an old man, Jonathan gives his account to his great-great nephew, who then gives it to the writer. It is one of those novels that you’re aware of being a heck of an achievement, all the way through; the research that has gone into it is evident without one ever feeling that one is reading research. It’s highly readable, and I loved the writing style; it was a delight to read an author who uses the language so well, and is acutely aware of the words and phrasing that would have been used in this period in history.
I particularly liked Jonathan’s observations about the futility of war; there is a good section about this in the chapter Laurels of Glory. And I loved this:
‘Duty to an abstract government whose purpose was to use the heroic idealism of youth to forward the goals of the venal wealthy. Is it not always so?’
The observations and accounts of the attitudes towards the slave trade and segregation were most interesting; I was surprised by some of them. ‘Several fine hotels on Broad Street by St Michael’s Church were owned by free blacks, serving only whites. Some freemen were themselves slaveowners, buying them to use as labourers’. As always with historical events, though, you cannot judge them by the outlook and culture of today’s world.
I found the end of the book, about the aftermath, most emotive, not to mention the moment when the reader is told what the ‘I’ in the title means – it is not as I’d assumed. Now and again I felt the story meandered a mite too much; it is a very long book and I felt it could have been edited down just a little. However, I could not give it anything less than five stars, and highly recommend it to anyone with a particular interest in the American Civil War, or historical fiction generally.
First-time novelist George WB Scott debuts a novel that offers a thrilling glimpse of Civil War Charleston through the eyes of a newcomer from Boston.
Readers join the main character of “I Jonathan, A Charleston Tale of the Rebellion” on his journey as a young man, marooned in a strange city just as the Civil War begins. His relationships with working men and women, slaves, merchants, planters, spies, inventors, soldiers, sweethearts and musicians tell the story of a dynamic culture undergoing its greatest challenge. Scott’s novel shows the arguments and trials of a wealthy cosmopolitan community preparing to fight a nation superior in manpower and arms.