by Taylor M. Polites
Release: February 7, 2012
Premise from Publisher:
Set in Reconstruction Alabama, Augusta “Gus” Branson's is a young widow whose quest for freedom turns into a race for her life when her husband Eli dies of a swift and horrifying fever and a large package of money – her only inheritance and means of survival – goes missing. Gus begins to wake to the realities that surround her: the social stigma her marriage has stained her with, what her husband did to earn his fortune, the shifting and very dangerous political and social landscape that is being destroyed by violence between the Klan and the Freeman's Bureau, and the deadly fever that is spreading like wildfire. Nothing is as she believed, everyone she trusts is hiding something from her.My Thoughts:
This book is very interesting and unique.
It takes place in 1875 in the Deep South. The Civil War is over, but emotional upheaval continues boiling in the south over civil rights. I was reminded of The Help as I read how Gus related to the servants. She loves Emma, who raised her, but now she's feeling jealous of her son's love for Emma. But this book evokes more parallels with Gone with the Wind, which I haven't read, and the beautiful southern belle.
I thoroughly enjoyed the author's dive into the character of Augusta and everyone around her. Augusta is a wonderfully strong woman. She is careful to not upset the balance of life around her - at first, anyway - while reserving her opinion to herself. The time period comes to life, right down to the feel of the heat in summer and how black-dyed cloth runs in sweat. Her husband's death was very untimely and Gus doesn't have a clue. She's is a rebel, alright, in more ways than one.
I don't want to spoil any of this story. It is a joy to read. The details are rich and the characters are deep. You must unravel the dangerous mystery of the money bag while avoiding the fever and political unrest for yourself.
Colorimetry welcomes Taylor M Polites:
Why did you choose Alabama in this time period?
Alabama is where I was born and grew up and it has always fascinated me, particularly Huntsville in North Alabama, with an important and beautiful antebellum district and political prominence in the early years of the state. But I chose the particular year 1875 because it was an important pivot in both the drama of the Civil War and the history of the region. So many writers have told the story of the Civil War and the immediate aftermath of the war, but the entire period of Reconstruction is fundamental to understanding what the war itself was about and what it accomplished. Reconstruction was an incredible experiment in civil equality at a time when racism was the norm—an experiment that was ultimately abandoned, but the effects of which, both for and against, continued to be felt all the way through the Civil Rights movement one hundred years later and up to today. The people who lived in the crosshairs of those events had many hard challenges and choices before them. It is a fascinating, yet neglected, time.
The inspiration came over a long period of time and from so many different sources. But certainly, one of the inspirations (or fascinations of mine) has always been dramatic female characters (both fictional and real). Starting with Scarlett O’Hara, of course, but moving on through some of the truly great and wonderful women of fiction, Elizabeth Bennett, Emma Bovary, Anna Karenina, Lizzie Eustace, Becky Sharp, Isabel Archer and Lily Bart. But also the real women of the South that I read again and again growing up—Mary Chesnut, of course, with her wit and pride and doubts; spunky and smart Sarah Morgan; the vain but also brave and determined belle Virginia Clay Clopton (a Huntsville resident); the Englishwoman Fanny Kemble with her memories of the beauty as well as suffering and tragedy on her husband Pierce Butler’s plantation; and finally another Huntsville woman, Kate Fearn, who I got to know through her letters to family members, so honest and passionate. Lots of different inspirations and all wonderful, complex and fascinating women!
What would you like to share with your readers?
I really hope that readers enjoy the book—that is number one. I hope that readers are absorbed by the story. I hope they connect with Augusta, with her flaws and her awakening and her change. And I hope they learn something from the story, from the history of the period, perhaps develop a new or different understanding of what the Civil War was about and what its legacy is, especially as we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the war.
Young Clovis, as I call him, is my best travelling companion. He loves to ride in the car—he can sleep for four hours without moving, tucked inside my coat, then will get up and look out the window for about ten minutes as we zoom down the highway, and then go back down for another four. He is great in hotels—I set him up with his crate and food and he seems perfectly agreeable to everything. He is a fierce defender of mine and so has earned his name, Clovis, King of the Franks. The original Clovis was a late fifth century warrior king who organized the tribes of Gaul more or less into what is France today, creating a hereditary kingship. What better name for my fierce and loyal Clovis, no matter how small (3.75 pounds!)?
I would not have guessed he was named after a warrior king... you have an imagination!!
Thank you so much for the opportunity to talk to you on your blog!
Thank you for sharing your thoughts... and thank you for writing this book!!!!
Taylor M. Polites is a novelist living in Providence, Rhode Island with his small Chihuahua, Clovis. Polites’ first novel, The Rebel Wife, is due out in February 2012 from Simon & Schuster. He graduated in June 2010 with his MFA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University. He has lived in Provincetown, Massachusetts, New York City, St. Louis and the Deep South. He graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a BA in History and French and spent a year studying in Caen, France. He has covered arts and news for a variety of local newspapers and magazines, including the Cape Codder, InNewsWeekly, Bird’s Eye View (the in-flight magazine of CapeAir),artscope Magazine and Provincetown Arts Magazine.
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Release: February 7, 2012
Available from Barnes & Noble, hardcover or Nook version.