ONE critic cited on the back of Charles Frazier’s latest novel writes that reading a work by the author is like listening to a fine symphony.
Truly, that is the case for Frazier’s Cold Mountain (1997). More than 20 years since it was first published, that novel remains vital in readers’ minds like a well-known musical composition.
Despite two decades past and scores of other books read, a table of members at a local book club recently discussed the book in vivid details. No prepared discussion, just simply the turn of a conversation. Cold Mountain elicited details and emotions immediately among the members who had read it 20 years ago and counting.
The words, sentences, characters, and plot of Cold Mountain resonate through time like a well-tuned symphony.
Alas, his books after that, Thirteen Moons (2006) and Nightwoods (2011) are likely lost in many a reader’s memory with only a line or two, a character trait, still resonating like a broken stanza of a lost song.
Frazier has now written a fourth novel, Varina (Ecco/HarperCollins Publishers; 356 pages; 2018). It tells the story of Varina, Mrs. Jefferson Davis, and her life before and after her time as the First Lady of the Confederacy.
Little time is spent on the Civil War. Frazier spends the majority of the pages sifting through Varina’s — V’s — memories of escaping south after the fall of Richmond in 1865 and through the visits late in her long life of a middle-aged black man whom V had treated as a member of the family when he was a child.
Frazier writes with great passion and insight. The character of V is full, haunted and delightful, amusing and profound. Frazier wrestles with the issues of slavery and the Civil War of race relations and the sins of a nation.
It is important to note that Varina is not nonfiction, but rather fiction based on a person from history.
Given Varina’s recent release, it is too early to tell if readers will still be discussing and debating this book 20 years from now.
But it feels like it may just be another Frazier symphony. THE VALDOSTA DAILY TIMES, GA./TNS
Varina costs P899 in paperback and is available in leading bookstores.