The Rebel Wife by Taylor M. Polites
Published by Simon and Schuster
Review copy received at SIBA 2012
From the publisher:
Augusta Branson was born into antebellum Southern nobility during a time of wealth and prosperity, but now she is left standing in the ashes of a broken civilization. When her scalawag husband dies suddenly of a mysterious illness, she must fend for herself and her young son. Slowly she begins to wake to the reality of her new life: her social standing is stained by her marriage; she is alone and unprotected in a community that is being destroyed by racial prejudice and violence; the fortune she thought she would inherit does not exist; and the deadly fever that killed her husband is spreading fast.
When this book was first released, bloggers were absolutely raving about it. So much raving that when I saw the ARC for the paperback edition at SIBA last year, I HAD to have it. Well I don’t know if it was too-high expectations or something, but The Rebel Wife didn’t wow me like it did for many others.
What I liked was that I haven’t read much historical fiction set in this time period, so it was a fresh place and time for me. And I felt that Polites did post-Civil War South justice – the struggles the characters were facing seemed authentic, I could envision the shattered communities and threat of violence and illness always looming, just waiting to strike on their next victim. Just imagine having your entire life change in a short period of time, especially when you have everything you could possibly want in life and then one second it’s just gone, and that’s what Gus is going through in this novel. I felt that desperation, that awful feeling of dread and of being completely defeated by life, throughout the book.
And I liked Gus too, this incredibly strong woman who has been through hell just to get to another level of the same hell – her life is horrible, as awful as you can imagine, and she’s gone from a sheltered, happy, wealthy existence to this terrifying new world after the war ended. She reminded me a lot of Scarlet from Gone With the Wind (and maybe that’s just because I read so few books in this place and time that caused me to connect the two novels).
However, I found myself bored by the book about halfway through, which is rare for me when I like a main character so much. Also, the book is relatively short, so it should have been action-packed, or at least kept my attention throughout, and for whatever reason, that didn’t happen. It could very well just be me, and maybe I was in a strange place mentally when I read the book which caused me to not be grabbed by it, but there you have it. I wasn’t wowed by The Rebel Wife. Oh well, it happens.
But plenty of other people have loved this one! So if you like historical fiction, it’s definitely worth a try.