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The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All-Part 1 (original 1989; edition 1992)

by Allan Gurganus

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1,309135,950 (3.78)57
Member:KABLOOEY
Title:The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All-Part 1
Authors:Allan Gurganus
Info:Books on Tape (1992), Audio Cassette
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Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All by Allan Gurganus (1989)

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Lucy at the age of 15 marries Capt Marsden, a 50 year old Confederate veteran of the Civil War. He proceeds to get her pregnant continually for years until she has nine children. He is a traveling livestock dealer who is rarely home. Her friend Castalia, a former slave of Marsden, helps her through her many trials.

Through Lucy we learn how the Capt. enlisted in the Confederate Army at the age of 13 and some of the traumatic experiences that shaped the strange man he was, how Castalia was brought to America to be a slave, and the strange experiences Lucy had raising her family in the South while married to a man who was still living his experiences in the War.

Capt. shot and then tried to save the life of Union soldier to whom he promised to return a heirloom watch to the soldier's New England family. He didn't because he fell in, love with the watch. He went to war with his best friend who he saw killed. He was at Appomattox for the final moments. When he returned to his Mother and their plantation, he found Sherman's men had burned it to the ground and his Mother was badly burned and his slaves had fled.

This a sprawling epic of the tragedy that became the lives of many in the South because of the War. It took me a long time to read this novel because parts of it lacked interest for me and took away from the main narrative. There were some fascinating sections especially Castalia's story of how she came to America which read somewhat differently than other tales of this trip that I have read. Another well written section was the Capt.'s time in battle. The descriptions of life in the Confederate Army were gut wrenching. ( )
  lamour | Feb 19, 2017 |
I struggled through 210 pages of this 718-page doorstop before calling it quits. An aging child-soldier marries a blonde child-bride, a reflection of the towheaded boyhood pal killed during the Civil War. You, the reader, are the stand-in for the silent reporter of infinite patience and a gross of blank tapes as the now elderly woman talks . . . and talks . . . and talks. While her anecdotes are satisfying as stories, the book meanders through the characters' lives, interspersed with the old woman's present, in a way that detracted from the whole. Her crustiness and regional diction finally became too irritating for me to continue.

Overall, probably not a bad book, but I just ran out of patience. ( )
  IreneF | Jul 13, 2013 |
I loved what I read of this book...but I took too long of a pause to get back into it. Oh well! One more for the unfinished shelf. ( )
  melissarochelle | Apr 23, 2013 |
The title intrigued me. What would she have to say? A lot. It's the story of her marriage to a Confederate soldier who never got over losing his best friend. But it's also the story of her mother; her housekeeper, who used to be the narrator's husband's slave; her husband; and others. In fact, I thought about including it on my short story bookshelf. Some of the anecdotes were very good, others seemed to drag on forever. I didn't think the slave's story was ever going to end. It's hit or miss, but you could really probably just dip into a section at a time rather than trying to read the whole thing as a novel. ( )
  JG_IntrovertedReader | Apr 3, 2013 |
Gave up around p. 20.
Substance: First-person pseudo-memoir cum interview of nonagenarian widow of last living Confederate veteran (having married the 50+ bachelor at age 15). Gurganus tries to emulate a crusty, humorous old woman, but I didn't feel persuaded. ( )
  librisissimo | Nov 15, 2010 |
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Epigraph
Myth is gossip grown old.  --Stanislaw Lec
What the American public always wants us a tragedy with a happy ending. --W. Dean Howells to Edith Wharton in conversation, A Backward Glance
Dedication
To my mother and father, with gratitude for standards and tenderness
And, with love, to Mona Simpson
First words
Died on me finally. He had to.
Quotations
"Whoo," she gave a barricaded smile. "They can *do* it, can't they? But, Lucy honey, we gots to consider the source. Look around you at these men. Ain't never had to axe theyselfs one real question. They start out, they a little boy baby with a congratulations in they didies. They don't got to wonder much (like us). They start out like being a state-ment. They never gots to questions nothing. Gliding, like. They born--they name's already signed down at the bottom of the deed. But, Lucy? They the real losers. Those of us as had to start everything for ourselfs, as has woke up every day with questions right in the bed with us--'how to get through it,' '*why* to get through it'--we done turned ourselves flat *in*to somebody. We our own best answers, we a tribe of answers--we self-made."

"But it's so tir-ing honey, always reinventing the wheel , at the bottom of every blooming hill!"

She laughed, "That do point that out. But they tells me: we gone inherit Mother Earth, us meek. Well, semi-meek. Men like yours, like ours in yonder, why they ain't punished *for* they sins to others--they punished *by* they sins. Some justice in this world! He usually stay tied up, he done lost his mind, and us? why, we free. I free, you free, he all troubled in the spirits." (pp. 705-6)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375726632, Paperback)

Allan Gurganus's Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All became an instant classic upon its publication. Critics and readers alike fell in love with the voice of ninety-nine-year-old Lucy Marsden, one of the most entertaining and loquacious heoines in American literature.

Lucy married at the turn of the last century, when she was fifteen and her husband was fifty. If Colonel William Marsden was a veteran of the "War for Southern Independence", Lucy became a "veteran of the veteran" with a unique perspective on Southern history and Southern manhood. Her story encompasses everything from the tragic death of a Confederate boy soldier to the feisty narrator's daily battles in the Home--complete with visits from a mohawk-coiffed candy-striper. Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All is proof that brilliant, emotional storytelling remains at the heart of great fiction.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:26 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Lucy Marsden's testament of her Civil War days includes a three-way love story, an eccentric small-town family, accounts of combat, and the price she paid--the lives of her nine children and the freedom of her best friend.

(summary from another edition)

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