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A Separate Country    by Robert Hicks Amazon.com order for
Separate Country
by Robert Hicks
Order:  USA  Can
Grand Central, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

A Separate Country is set in New Orleans in the years following the Civil War. The novel is based on the life of General John Bell Hood who lost the use of his left arm at Gettysburg and whose right leg was amputated at Chickamauga. A very controversial general of the Confederate Army, Hood started life over again as a civilian, marrying Anna Marie Hennen. The couple had eleven children, including three sets of twins. Anna Marie loved Hood and accepted his failures thousands of lives were lost under his command.

This is an absolute treasure trove of historical fact presented in a fictional novel. The reader is able to track Hood and his family through his life with all the accoutrements he would have had and seen, heard and smelled: the fabrics of the day, the foods that were consumed, the smells of the streets and kitchens, the flowers that bloomed and the perfumes used. The hard lives of African Americans are most vivid as is racial bias. The rigid rules of society were unbending. Break them even for the slightest infraction and doors were closed to the rule breaker. New Orleans was indeed a separate country. The atmosphere of New Orleans after the cessation of the Civil War hangs over every page.

The meticulous research that went into this historical novel is awesome. The author has a magical way with words that softens each scene no matter how disturbing it may be. His characters have all the attributes and flaws that real humans have. Most vivid is Hood's realization that he sent thousands of men into battle to die. Unnecessarily. He read his failure in everyone's eyes and suffered greatly because of this. His attempts at redemption fall short. If historical fiction is your bag, don't miss this one. Author Robert Hicks also wrote The Widow of the South, for which he received well deserved acclaim - and should have the same reaction to this one.

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