16 January 2018

Blind Tribute by Mari Christie

Shortlisted for Book of the Month


AMAZON UK £3.04 £11.79
AMAZON US $4.02 $19.99
AMAZON CA $27.49

Family Drama /Military
1800s
American Civil War

Shortlisted for Book of the Month 

I think I am in love. With a cantankerous, opinionated, brave, intelligent man named Palmer Harrold Wentworth III. Fortunately, we are of an age. Unfortunately, he doesn’t exist, and even if he did, he’d have been long dead, seeing as he was born 1805 or so. My infatuation with Mr Wentworth, or Harry as his friends call him, is testament to what a fantastic job Ms Christie has done in presenting her protagonist.

Blind Tribute is not an easy book to read. Set in the United States during the Civil War, it is the story of Harry, born a Southerner but since many years living in the north. As the spectre of civil war looms ever closer, Harry initially refuses to take a stand, torn apart by his ancestral ties to the South and his new family and life in Philadelphia. However, as Harry is the chief editor of a newspaper, he cannot avoid the issue of declaring his opinions forever. When the Confederate Army opens fire on Fort Sumter the die is cast and Harry has to choose.

One of the first casualties in any war is the truth. This is perhaps even more valid during a civil war, when brother may end up fighting against brother, both of them convinced they have truth on their side. Harry therefore decides to dedicate himself to presenting the truth of the war, and to do so he returns to Charleston, determined to be as close as possible to the unfolding events.

Obviously, he does not receive the welcome of a prodigal son. His relationship to his father soured over forty years ago and is not exactly improved by what Wentworth senior perceives as Harry’s defection to the Yankees. While not about to deliver any spoilers, let’s just say that Harry’s time in the south ends most abruptly. I have still to recover from the intensity of those particular chapters.

Harry’s experiences in the south leave him a diminished man—in some ways. In others, he grows, having to shed the man he was before the war to emerge another, wiser man. But it is a painful journey of self-discovery Ms Christie subjects her protagonist to, his losses piling up along the way.

That Ms Christie has done extensive research is evident from the first page. In particular, I am impressed by how well she presents the complexities of the war, whether they be political or economic. The conflict as presented by Ms Christie is not black and white, it is a multitude of hues of grey, with one notable, very black, exception: slavery. Heart wrenching descriptions of slave auctions, of the punishment inflicted on slaves, turn this reader’s stomach—and Harry’s.

Blind Tribute is a long book with quite the cast of well-developed characters, all the way from Harry to his utterly obnoxious wife. At times, pace is slow but the hypnotic quality of Ms Richie’s flawless prose, the way she paints detailed pictures of her settings, is addictive and I find myself turning page after page after page, entirely submerged in the world of Harry, whether it is the genteel salons of Philadelphia or the abandoned rooms of an old plantation.
Ms Christie has written a book that I will never forget. It has touched my heart, my soul, my intellect, not something I experience all that often. Blind Tribute is, quite simply, the best book I have read this year.  

© Anna Belfrage

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6 comments:

  1. There isn't a country which doesn't have a period in its history to be ashamed of, to be forgiven for, often trying to forget, but hopefully to learn from (if it only were so).
    Great review, Anna.

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  2. Oh, my! What a lovely review. Thank you for taking the time to consider the book so deeply. I am so glad to hear you are in love with Harry (though he would say, "Bah. Love is a ridiculous notion..."). I adore him, myself, but I recognize he isn't the easiest man in the world to love.

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  3. I would like to point out the review was written in 2017. So yes, it is the best book I read in 2017 - and I average like 3 books a week. I am glad Mari liked the review. I am utterly delighted I was given the joy & honour to read and review it. There: enough gushing for one day, methinks.

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    Replies
    1. You can gush about Harry all day. ;-) He will tell you how much he hates to hear it, while he presses his ear against the door to hear more.

      It means so much to me when my authorly peers love this book. I've been frustrated that so few of my really deep-thinking friends have read it yet, so not many people to discuss the nuances. It would be a great book club book, but first, seven people have to want to read it all at once. ;-)

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  4. An excellent review - the horror and ambiguities of Civil War makes a complete conflict of emotions and clear thinking. And, these are stories that must be told. I look forward to reading, although I know it will be difficult.

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