This one was on my list of books to finished this year, even though I started it in September. Finally–FINALLY–I finished it.
At 718 pages, Allan Gurganus’ “Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All” is a monster of a book. I had to continually stop reading it to read book club books, or books that finally showed up at the library, so it took me an exceptionally long time to read it.
The book is a first-person account of Lucy Marsden, who as a young teen, married the 50ish William Marsden, a Confederate veteran who joined the war at 13. Lucy is telling the story in her nursing home to someone–a nurse, a friend, I don’t think it was ever specified–and you learn about everything. William’s life, her life, Castalia Marsden’s life (she was a slave for the Marsden family, and stayed a presence in their lives) and more.
Lucy has a distinct voice. I could imagine this woman, at this point in her life so old, telling her story to someone, just happy she has a listener. That said, Lucy has terrible grammar, so at times it was hard for me to read. I kept wanted to correct things. But the bad grammar is accurate, and there is actually a big section of the book dedicated to her terrible speech. It did slow me down, though.
There was a lot of tangents in the book, too, which again, makes sense for the character. But I could have skipped some tales that weren’t absolutely central to the main characters. The best part of the book for me was in the last 25 or so pages.
Would I recommend this book? I don’t know. Be prepared for how long it is. I think if you enjoy really getting to know a character and hearing a unique voice, you’ll like it. If you love reading about the Civil War, you’ll like it. But it’s dense, and a slow read (at least it was for me), so if you like quick books, fluffy books, you probably won’t enjoy this one.
They made this book into a movie (a two-part made-for-TV-movie, I believe). It’s more than two hours long. Wonder if it would be any good? Has anyone seen it?