The Widow of the South-Robert Hicks


Since completing the charming Sister Noon, and considering the fact that I’ve embargoed myself from buying any more second hand books until I finish the millions I’ve bought, I thought I would go on a historical fiction detour.

So, almost a year after buying it, I picked up The Widow of the South. My initial reasons for buying this book were somewhat insubstantial: I recognised the cover, and Gone with the Wind is one of my top 5 books that I reread annually. So, given my inexplicable interest (being South African) in the America Civil War, I thought I would chew into this one.

The story revolves around Carrie McGavock, a plantation lady who’s mourning of her three children is rudely interrupted by the Battle of Franklin, one of the most devastating and decisive battles of the war, and one that ushered in the victory of the union army over the confederates. The Confederate Generals commandeer her homestead to use as a makeshift hospital during and after the battle, in which time she discovers a new purpose for her life and a new romance.

It’s a brutal story. I almost rushed to finished it just because it’s so starkly highlights the futility of war. Hick’s goes into great detail (and from further research, great accuracy) in describing the battle, men who suffocated under piles of bodies, who had their jaws shot off and lived, who lost limbs or died on the floor of the Carnton Plantation under McGavock’s care. It’s horrific and gory in the extreme. Yet at the same time, it captures a moment in history foreign to almost everyone living today, and weaves composes a fascinating account of lives smashed together because of war.

I would only recommend this book if you have the stomach and disposition to handle very gory and gut-wrenching topics of war and death. However, if you, like me, are fascinated by this particular time in history, you will no doubt find this a very satisfying read, even though the way Hick’s switches constantly between narrators is somewhat annoying.

I paired this book with Guardian Peaks delectable Summit, a blend between Syrah, Mourvèdre and Grenache. In this wine, you’ll get flavours of red fruit like plum, black cherries and red currant.