Tag Archives: Slavery

Lights, Camera, Novel: Allan Gurganus’s Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All.

Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells AllOn-screen, the Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All is much like its novel counterpart. Clocking in at a hefty 718 pages, Allan Gurganus’ debut work is no quick read. And the miniseries isn’t exactly a half-hour sitcom either. Given the length and the detail of the novel, it’s not surprising it would take four hours to adapt the epic life story of Confederate widow, Lucy Marsden.

Lucy’s life story was heavily influenced by her marriage at age fifteen to Captain Willie Marsden, thirty-five years her senior, and, until his death, the last surviving Confederate soldier. Gurganus’ celebrated novel is told from the perspective of the still spunky ninety-nine year-old Lucy who resides in a North Carolina nursing home.

Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All spent eight months on the New York Times Best Seller list and sold more than four million copies. The novel also won Gurganus the Sue Kaufman Prize from The American Academy of Arts and Letters. All this proving it was worth the seven long years it took to Gurganus to write Confederate Widow.

Gurganus was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. He drew a great amount of inspiration from his grandmother, Willie Ethel Pitt Gurganus, who he would visit during his lunch breaks when in grade school. Despite their time together, she never shared her life stories with him. Lucy is his imagination of his grandmother’s experiences as a Confederate-era woman.

Right around the release of the novel in 1989, New York Magazine wrote a detailed profile on Gurganus, still available here through Google Books. The miniseries, which was broadcast on CBS, starred Diane Lane, Donald Sutherland, Cicely Tyson, Anne Bancroft and Blythe Danner. Lane played Lucy from teenage to middle age. Bancroft portrayed elderly Lucy.

Confederate Widow Miniseries

Photo courtesy of the Sonar Entertainment website.

The adaptation won four Emmys (Art Direction, Costume Design, Hairstyling, and Best Supporting Actress) out of its nine nominations. The miniseries was filmed in Madison, Georgia rather than North Carolina. The novel was set in the fictional town of Falls, North Carolina.

Gurganus did not write the screenplay, which was instead adapted by Joyce Eliason. The New York Times review of the miniseries indicates that Gurganus played a small part in the production. And, Gurganus in turn spoke positively of the television adaptation.

In 2003, Ellen Burstyn starred as Lucy in a theatrical adaptation of Confederate Widow on Broadway. A critic from Variety notes that it was a very long two hours and twenty minutes, attributed partially to the fact that the page-to-stage adaptation was conceived as a one-woman show. Apparently the production closed after one official show. A few years later in 2007, the novel was adapted again for the stage, this time by Gurganus, as a part of the Theater of the American South Festival. The production was pared down to a one-act, one-woman play that was better received than its ill-fated Broadway predecessor.

Visit Sonar Entertainment’s site for a short clip from the miniseries and some production shots. But if you’re interested in watching the miniseries for yourself, copies of the movie are available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog in two locations in addition to the novel. The original blog post on Gurganus’ novel is available here.

Sources consulted: Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, New York Magazine, New York Times, News & Observer (two different articles), People, Sonar Entertainment, Variety (two different articles), Wikipedia (Allan Gurganus, Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All)

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Filed under 1990-1999, 1994, Gurganus, Allan, Historical, Novels Set in Fictional Places

W. Ferrell. The Secrets of Sterling Shearin. Kernersville, NC: W. Ferrell, 2013.

Using the device of a diary, this novel tracks the life and emotional development of Sterling Shearin, a young man living in Warren County in the early years of the American republic.  Sterling has been mentored by Nathaniel Macon and through Macon meets other public figures of the period and is exposed to political ideas that shaped the philosophies of the Founding Fathers.  But Sterling doesn’t just live in a world of ideas.  He is a young man, trying to build up a farm, a family, and his position in his community.  Not all of his impulses and actions are noble–his relationship with his wife sours even as he savors the memory of his relationship with an enslaved woman and dallies with another man’s wife.  He finds his way in part by weighing his behavior against what he sees around him. The Secrets of Sterling Shearin does what historical novels are meant to do–it makes clear that this was a different time. Readers can ponder what they would have done had they lived back then.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Ferrell, W., Historical, Piedmont, Warren

Jimmy C. Waters. The Bender Legacy. Toccoa, GA: Currahee Books, 2011.

The story of the Bender Family, begun in Waters’s New Bern: 1710 in the Carolinas, continues in this account of the Civil War in and around the family’s hometown of New Bern, North Carolina. Since Martin Bender built the family plantation in the 18th century, life has been good for the Benders- they have become successful cotton farmers and dry goods merchants. This novel begins in 1854 at the deathbed of John Knox Bender, the current Bender patriarch, as he instructs his sons in a shocking legacy passed down from father to son since Martin’s time. John Knox’s three sons, Philemon, Bryan, and Jake, are as different as can be: Philemon, the eldest, is boisterous and commanding, while Bryan, the middle son, is a quiet, bookish young man with a crippled arm. Jake, the youngest, is the sharply intelligent first mate on a ship transporting cotton to Britain. Although each reacts differently to their father’s surprising command, they all agree to honor his wish and keep the family legacy.

Soon, though, they will be tested. The dying John Knox Bender foresees what none of the rest can imagine: war will strike the South in just six short years. As the three sons scatter to the winds in an attempt to defend their homes and homeland, we accompany them to witness the war in different places: from the trenches on battlefields, through the eyes of a blockade runner out to sea, and where the conflict was perhaps the most brutal: on the farms and homesteads of Southern families. As these young men and their compatriots fight for their lives and for everything else they hold dear, some will emerge from the conflict, while others will fall.

Half history and half historical fiction, Jimmy C. Waters weaves statistics, facts, and a plethora of imaginary characters together in this stirring sequel to New Bern. Witness every battle that took place during the War Between the States in North Carolina, on the front lines with the brothers Bender.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Coast, Craven, Historical, Waters, Jimmy C.

Gardner Martin Kelley. The Outer Banks Sea Gypsies. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2011.

Captain Gardner Martin Kelley has “many tales to tell” from a long life spent working on yachts, steamships, and in a World War II Liberty Shipyard. Born in 1913 on an island off the coast of Maine, this ninety-eight-year-old author has crafted a gripping story of rum running and survival on the Outer Banks beginning in 1923, as the dawning of a new age in technology saw the end of the very last cargo sailing schooners.

His tale follows three individuals, beginning with the young sailor Ron Fickett, whose father is brutally murdered by scavengers after the elder Fickett wrecks their schooner in the infamous Graveyard of the Atlantic off the North Carolina coast. The second plot concerns Johnny Mapp, one of the many “bankers” who arrive to salvage material from the schooner and witnesses Captain Fickett’s murder. He decides then that he and his family should move on, away from such brutality. The Mapp family build a floating houseboat, living off the land and selling their catch from the bountiful waters to buy what they can’t hunt or gather. Meanwhile, Ron searches first for his father, and then for revenge when he learns the truth of his death.

Finally, Kelley’s story follows Cissy Mapp, Johnny’s younger sister, who is tragically kidnapped by Cuban rum runners and sold into slavery. She escapes and assumes the identity of a street urchin called Tiar, growing up among the orphans and street children of Havana. She sells her body to survive, but eventually finds her way back to her family … with a plan to corner the market in running liquor, illegal during this era of Prohibition.

A rousing tale from an author with first-hand knowledge of much of what he writes, readers will enjoy learning about Captain Kelley’s life through his writing, and through the many photographs of the author, the ships, and the land included in this self-published novel.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog. 

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Coast, Historical, Kelley, Gardner Martin, Suspense/Thriller

Zolene. Ecstasy’s Angel. New York: Xlibris, 2000.

In the years following the Civil War, the fiery Katherine St. Clair is a beautiful young woman who is tragically orphaned when her father and stepmother are killed in a bandit-induced train accident. Because Katherine’s stepmother was a malicious woman who squandered away her husband’s wealth and accrued enormous amounts of debt, the extensive St. Clair estate near Wilmington, North Carolina must be sold. The St. Clair family’s sympathetic barrister takes care of all the arrangements, not wanting to hurt the emotionally traumatized young woman further. But Katherine’s trials have just begun.

One dark and stormy night, she takes in a wounded young man, not realizing that he is both the new owner of her ancestral home and a former Yankee captain. Brandon Morgan is handsome, passionate, and completely delirious with fever. Katherine nurses him back to health, all the while fighting her growing attraction to him. Although unintended, the two eventually spend the night together. Brandon, still fevered, is convinced that he has met an angel. Katherine, distressed at her deflowering, sends him to a nearby hospital, determined to forget his name. Besides, her stepbrother, the tall, dark and sultry Ramon Van Marcus, has returned; together they hatch plan to marry in order to receive their small inheritance. But Katherine cannot avoid Brandon Morgan forever, or his determination to find and possess the woman he thinks of as his angel.

Readers of romance novels will be fascinated by Zolene’s highly dramatic interpretation of Reconstruction in this, her debut novel. The portrayal of race and gender are true to nineteenth century opinions, but this does not stop the novel from being a steamy bodice-ripper of the most exciting kind.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000, 2000-2009, Coast, Historical, New Hanover, Romance/Relationship, Zolene

Eileen Clymer Schwab. Shadow of a Quarter Moon. New York: New American Library, 2011.

“Jacy Lane, you are nothing more than a foolish quarter moon!” While Jacy is the pride and joy of her father, the wealthy plantation owner Mr. Bradford Lane, she is often the subject of her mother Claudia’s anger. Raised to be a fine southern lady in northeastern North Carolina, Jacy has enjoyed a comfortable existence marred only by her mother’s inexplicable bouts of rage. But her mostly happy life comes to an abrupt halt, first when a cruel landowner foists his ungentlemanly attentions on her, and then when Bradford Lane dies suddenly. When Jacy refuses to submit to the fate her mother Claudia has planned, the woman finally reveals the reason for her ill-treatment of Jacy: Jacy is the illegitimate child of Bradford and his true love, a half-white, half-black house slave. When the young Jacy heard her mother call her a “quarter moon”, she was really saying “quadroon”- a term for a person who is only three-quarters white. Naturally fair-skinned and kept paler with wide-brimmed sun hats, no one, not even Jacy, had guessed her true parentage.

Stunned by this revelation, Jacy begins a transformation. Galvanized by the further discovery that her birth mother and full brother are still enslaved on the plantation, she decides to deliver them, and the handsome horse trainer Rafe, to freedom. It is only when the three are safely away that Jacy realizes her true home is with them, no matter where they are or the color of their skin. Abandoning the relative safety of the plantation, Jacy strikes out to follow her family through the Underground Railroad to the north, true love, and acceptance of her own identity. Along the way she encounters great danger, temporary defeat, and the worst kind of human indecency, but ultimately emerges as a triumphant, strong woman with the ability to look her fears in the eye.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Camden, Coastal Plain, Gates, Historical, Pasquotank, Romance/Relationship, Schwab, Eileen Clymer

Lori Copeland. The One Who Waits for Me. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2011.

Captain Pierce Montgomery, Second Lieutenant Samuel “Preach” Madison, and First Lieutenant Gray Eagle are three veterans traveling home to North Carolina after the Civil War. They cannot wait to get home to their family, the promise of peace, and the taste of sweet tea.

Beth and Joanie Jornigan are two sisters who have just undertaken the heartbreaking task of burying their parents. Although their hearts are heavy, the sisters see their parents’ deaths as an opportunity to flee their horrendous Uncle Walt and his son, Bear. Uncle Walt forced the Jornigans to work the farm, treating them as farmhands, not kin, and threatened to marry Beth to Bear while neglecting Joanie’s health. To add a touch of finality to this chapter of their lives, the Jornigan sisters torch their shanty as they leave the farm.

The soldiers’ plans for returning home are upended when they happen upon an enormous field fire. As they try to rescue survivors, they save the Jornigan sisters. Over the next few days, as the men help the sisters and another field hand (whose baby they just delivered) flee an angry Walt, the men begin to realize the impact these women will have on their lives. Romantic interests are formed, and Beth’s negative impression of men is challenged. Beth also realizes the power of prayer and the presence of a higher power.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Copeland, Lori, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Religious/Inspirational

Sain, Leanna. Magnolia Blossoms. Kingsport, TN: Twilight Times Books, 2010.

Sweet Magnolia Poinsett (understandably) loathes her name, preferring instead to go by Maggie. At 25, tough and worldly Maggie is a photographer for the prestigious National Geographic magazine, until she contracts malaria on a shoot in Zaire. Ordered to rest, Maggie reluctantly returns home to Charleston, South Carolina and the Civil War-obsessed parents who chose her horrible moniker. With typical misunderstanding, her mother and father decide that a family vacation in the Blue Ridge Mountains is just what they all need, dragging her along to Golden Apple Farm, a small bed-and-breakfast nestled in picturesque MacKinlay, North Carolina. Despite the beautiful countryside and Jane MacKinlay,the kind proprietress,  Maggie is all set for a week of misery. Until she sees the ghost.

Jane MacKinlay suspects there is something different about the young woman who arrives with her family in the spring of 2010. When Maggie sees Thomas, Jane knows that her prayers have finally been answered. Shot in 1864 for desertion, the spectral Confederate is also Jane’s great, great uncle, and she thinks Maggie can help him–by returning to the past through Golden Apple Farm’s best kept secret: the iron gate. But Maggie is skeptical. After all, time travel? Ghosts? Then, one full-moon night, she follows Thomas … straight through the gate into 1864.

Soon Maggie is on the run. Disguised as a boy, she assists the photographer Thomas with his business of capturing Civil War action, all the while looking for a way to save him from his untimely end. But the wartime South is a dangerous place; overrun with spies, deserters, and villains of all kinds. Thomas, Maggie, and the entire MacKinlay clan (many of whom readers will remember from previous books) must do things they never thought themselves capable of  doing in order to survive.

This is a rousing end to a wonderful trilogy, and fans of novels such as Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series will be particularly delighted with the romance, time travel, and adventure surrounding the intrepid Maggie and handsome Thomas.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, Henderson, Historical, Mountains, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Romance/Relationship, Sain, Leanna

Blonnie Bunn Wyche. The Anchor: P. Moore Proprietor. Wilmington, NC: Banks Channel Books, 2003.

I don’t consider my questions treason. I think it’s more about common sense. Pauline Moore is full of questions, and opinions. Everyone is: it is 1764 and the small town of Brunswick, North Carolina, along with the rest of the colony, is stirring under England’s stifling taxation. Unfortunately, since Pauline is female and only fifteen at that, she is expected to stay quiet and serve the real thinkers: men. But when her profligate father leaves town, Pauline is the only one left to take charge of her little sisters, sick mother, and the family tavern. The next few years will be hard ones: this spunky heroine will face the chaos of a budding rebellion, the daily tasks of managing a business and household, and powerful men who assume that her gender makes her a weak and simple target. Pauline is anything but. Educated, strong, and stubborn, she grows to adulthood alongside her new nation, where she imagines everyone, including slaves and women, will be free.

In this beautifully written and precisely researched tale, Blonnie Bunn Wyche provides a stirring look at the colonial town of Brunswick (now in ruins), the birth of the Revolutionary War in North Carolina, and a strong and fiery heroine who dares to stand up for freedom for all. Pauline Moore’s bravery and moral code will resonate in the minds of young women and readers everywhere.

Winner of the Juvenile Fiction Award from the American Association of University Women, and the N.C. Historical Society of Sherrills Ford’s Clark Cox Fiction Award.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2003, Brunswick, Children & Young Adults, Coast, Historical, New Hanover, Romance/Relationship, Wyche, Blonnie Bunn

Blonnie Bunn Wyche. Cecilia’s Harvest: A Novel of the Revolution. Wilmington, NC: Whittler’s Bench Press, 2009.

Cecilia Moore is certain of two things: first, that she has to get away from her hardworking older sister Pauline and the hateful family tavern, and second, that Kenneth Black, atop his fine stallion, Big Boy, is the handsomest man in Wilmington, if not all North Carolina. The winter’s day in 1775 when he asks for her hand in marriage is the happiest of her sixteen-year-old life: he drapes her in a diamond necklace and promises to whisk her away to his prosperous farm full of servants. Cecilia cannot imagine that within a few months, just as the country plunges further into deadly warfare, she too will be fighting for mere survival. Murder, pregnancy, wild animals, and marauding British soldiers make life an unforgiving onslaught, and as quickly as Cecilia’s fortunes rise, the next day only brings more brutal tests. But Cecilia, in addition to being a crack shot with her rifle, is possessed of a nimble mind and a brave heart. Whatever dangers threaten, she finds she has the strength to rise and meet them again and again.

As Americans, we know the story of the Revolutionary War: taxation, then Declaration, followed by fighting and eventually freedom. But what of the smaller stories, the personal tales that won our nation its liberty? Blonnie Bunn Wyche follows her award-winning novel, The Anchor: P. Moore Proprietor, with the suspenseful story of a young woman struggling to survive the bitter years of revolution. Cecilia Moore Black is a stalwart, gutsy heroine who will make an excellent addition to any young adult’s reading list.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library Catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Brunswick, Children & Young Adults, Coast, Historical, New Hanover, Pender, Romance/Relationship, Suspense/Thriller, Wyche, Blonnie Bunn