Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule: Book Review

History provides lessons that we can learn from. The Civil War years in our country were a time of great division. Jennifer Chiaverini has written several historical novels set in this time period. I found the book about Julia and Ulysses Grant to be especially interesting.

My knowledge of our eighteenth president was limited. I knew that Grant had been a general in the Union army during the Civil War. I didn’t know that he was a devoted family man.

Chiaverini’s novel, Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule, paints a picture of the Grant family throughout the Civil War and a brief summary of the years at the Whitehouse. It was fascinating to learn more about the southern belle married to a northern abolitionist.

Mrs. Grant actually kept a slave through the beginning of the Civil War, even though her husband was against it. That their marriage survived and their devotion to each other continued to grow, I found inspiring.

Chiaverini did extensive research for this book. The list of resources is long and includes the memoirs written by Julia Dent Grant and her husband Ulysses S. Grant. Julia and Ulysses had a strong and loving marriage. They endured family disapproval when they married. Julia learned to adjust to military life during the Civil War, and then thrived as First Lady through Grant’s two terms as president.

Following the years at the White House, the Grants had financial challenges. It was interesting to learn that Mark Twain was a family friend and had a significant role in the publication of Grant’s memoirs.

As I read through this novel I was reminded that our country has been through many tumultuous times. Our leaders are human, subject to error.

In the book two former slaves (fictional characters) comment about Julia and Ulysses Grant: “He wasn’t a perfect man or a perfect president, but he was a loving father and a devoted husband . . . We’re all sinners in need of the Lord’s redemptive grace and forgiveness . . . General Grant and his wife too.” *

We have a great need to pray for our leaders.

I’m sharing this post with Literacy Musing Monday .

* Jennifer Chiaverini, Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule, New York: Penguin Random House Company, 2015, p. 357.

Christmas Bells Still Ringing — from the Pen of a Poet

 

Christmas Bells

Over the past couple weeks I have encountered Henry Wadsworth Longfellow twice. I picked up a coffee table book at a home I was visiting. The book had beautiful photos, enticing recipes and quotes from famous writers. One of the quotes was from Longfellow and I wrote it down.  I was touched by his words about gardens.  (The quote  will  appear in a future post.)

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Jennifer Chiaverini’s novel,  Christmas Bells, gives vignettes of       Longfellow’s life. He encountered tragedy and lived through the pain and turmoil of the Civil War. Towards the end of the Civil War he wrote the poem, “Christmas Bells”. You may have heard it sung. The first line is “I heard the bells on Christmas Day . . .”

The scenes from Longfellow’s life are paired with the story of a modern day family. It was a little challenging for me to grasp the structure of the story at first. This modern story was composed of one scene viewed from the perspective of about six people. Each sees the events that take place a little differently during a children’s choir rehearsal. They are singing “Christmas Bells” of course.

I was really pleased to read the history behind the poem, “Christmas Bells” and I am inspired to read more of Longfellow’s poetry. Personal tragedy and the war almost drove the poet to despair, but he finished his poem with this stanza.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead: nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Note: The photo of the bells and the engraving of Longfellow are via Wikimedia Commons and are public domain.

Linking with Friendship Friday,  Literacy Musing MondayBooknificent ThursdayWholehearted Wednesday, A Little R & R, and Hope in Every Season.