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Good Time Coming: A sweeping saga set during the American Civil War

by C. S. Harris

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204827,782 (4.13)None
A story of coming-of-age in Civil War-torn Louisiana. This is a heart-wrenching story of loss and survival; of the bonds that form amongst women and children left alone to face the hardships, depravations, and dangers of war; and of one unforgettable girl's slow and painful recognition of the good and evil that exists within us all.… (more)
  1. 00
    Woe to Live On by Daniel Woodrell (amelielyle)
    amelielyle: Both these novels relate the little known persecution and suffering endured in specific areas of the South during the American Civil War.
  2. 00
    Enemy Women by Paulette Jiles (amelielyle)
    amelielyle: Each of these novels exposes in lyrical language the undeserved suffering endured by women and children at the hands of the federal armies during the American Civil War.
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I've been a lukewarm fan of the author's Sebastian St. Cyr books for a while now, neither avoiding them nor actively seeking them out, and thought this would be a safe bet, especially with an American Civil War setting.

It was safe, in that it was – as expected – solidly written, with good, well-rounded characters and a deep setting written knowledgeably. Dialogue was natural and believable. But in the end I enjoyed it rather less than the St. Cyr books. It's first person POV thirteen-year-old Amrie, and there were times I just wasn't comfortable with some of the things she comes out with – would she really know that a certain Union general I've never heard of was unpopular with his men?

Near the beginning of the book it comes out that there is a woman in the area who must be a spy, a traitor to the South – and there's suspicion wafting about that she might be Amrie's mother. It's a strange mystery that surfaces and submerges throughout the book until it kind of gets forgotten about. It starts out being one of the most important things in the girl's life – who is it? Could it be her mother? – and then … it stops.

‘Damn this war. Damn Abraham Lincoln and every hotheaded Southerner who pushed for secession and every sanctimonious Northern abolitionist who ever thought that one sin justifies another. Damn them, damn them, damn them.’

I'm almost embarrassed to admit how painful I found the frequent disparagement of Union soldiers, and even more that of Abraham Lincoln. Oh, and Grant and Sherman owned slaves. (Prove it.) Objectively, I get it. There's the wider lens, through which of course anyone in the Confederate States would never have a positive word for Lincoln, and of course their direct experience of the occupying army would be far stronger than any stories of atrocities by the Confederate Army. (And as to those atrocities, I really only need to say two words: "Forrest", and "Andersonville".) But it caused a knee-jerk belligerent reaction every time – "Oh yeah? Come over here and say that"… Know what? The South started it. The South lost. Lincoln did what he had to to preserve as much as he could. I'd drop a microphone if I had it.

I am unendingly tired of people – real or fictional – who are diametrically opposed to a cause and yet lend it their skills. Both of Amrie's parents are adamantly anti-slavery. Amrie says of her mother "nothing riled her more than slavery and war".So do they work to improve slaves' lots in life? Do they abandon the South and go North to work with and fight for the Union, and make some effort to change the attitudes of the abolitionists who apparently had the right idea and the wrong execution? Nope. For obvious reasons, the unrelenting horrors faced by Amrie and her family reminded me of Gone With the Wind, except with no apology for the "peculiar institution", no sympathy, which was good. Even better, there's a sort of an anti-Ashley among the characters; I hated Ashley. I made a note about another book set in the Reconstruction South that when the Doctor asks me when and where I want to go in the TARDIS, I will possibly say "anywhere but then and there." I suppose, depending on how you look at it, war can bring out the best in some people – but in all the rest it exposes nothing but bad. It's hard to read.

What makes it even a little harder to read, and one of the biggest reasons I just could not like this book, was the author's habit of ending nearly every single section – whether chapter or section broken out by skipped lines, or occasionally just paragraphs – with a weighty pronouncement, a one-sentence summation of the events just described or, more often, a single sentence of foreshadowing. "But God had other ideas." "But I was about to learn that bargains don’t work any better than prayers." And so on. And on. AND on. They were everywhere. It got to be somewhere between funny and one-more-and-I'll-scream. This sort of thing is like salt – some is good. More is not better.

I have to say I hated the end. Which will get spoiler-y, so continue reading warned thus in five …

Four…

Three…

Two…

One.

Last warning.

Still here? Here's the spoiler.

In the very last pages, Amrie's father comes home, apparently safe and sound. His family rushes to greet him. The End. And it bothered me, deeply – because there is no way he's safe and sound. He has gone through hell, was if I recall correctly wounded and captured, and is coming back to a place that has been gutted. His home is all but gone; his neighbors have been decimated, or worse; most of his possessions are gone; his wife and daughter are not remotely the same woman and child he left behind. So, yes, it's lovely that they all survived. But that's not the end. And what comes after may in some ways be worse than what has gone before. The book had to end somewhere – but I felt like this was a terrible place to drop the story.

The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review.
( )
  Stewartry | Feb 21, 2017 |
Good Time Coming by C.S. Harris is the story of Anne Marie, or Amrie, who lives in St. Francisville, Louisiana on the Mississippi. She is ten years old when the Civil War starts and by the second year of the war, she and her family and friends are directly impacted when the Federals take New Orleans and start moving up the river to Vicksburg. Her parents are mistrusted by their neighbors because they freed all their slaves before the war even started. Her father is a surgeon stationed in Virginia with the Confederate Army and her mother has taken over his work in treating his patients left in their small community.
Things get progressively worse for the town as the Federals periodically shell the town or raid it, burning and looting homes, raping women, and impressing both free men and slaves. Amrie observes this with growing anger and fear. Meanwhile, people are killed, disappear, and are forever changed by the depredations of this war.
I've read all Ms. Harris' St Cyr Regency mysteries and enjoyed them very much. This book is much different in tone, but the author has successfully presented some issues in the Civil War that is often glossed over in our history books. Aside from Sherman's march to the sea and Gone with the Wind, there have not been many stories told of the women and children left behind and what they really went through. The author researched this story for several years, reading journals, diaries, letters, and other original documents to tell this story. While historical fiction, much of the book is based on real events.
This is an important read for history buffs and indeed, for any who want some background on tensions that still exist to this day between sections of our country. I heartily recommend this book. ( )
  N.W.Moors | Dec 6, 2016 |
Amrie was only ten when her father left their home in St, Francisville, Louisianan to fight in the Civil War. Her parents were not slaveholders, having freed their slaves many years before, and mother and daughter are left with only a few faithful retainers. For the first fire years the war barely touches them and Amrie lives a life of freedom, fishing and hunting with a friend, a young man named Finn. All this will change with the federal bombardment and takeover of New Orleans and the Union Armies attempt to control the Mississippi river.

Writing this from the perspective of a young girl really brings home the changes emotionally and physically that the woman left alone after the men have gone to fight, went through. Seeing through her eyes, we Weiss the full horrors of this war. What these women and children went to at the hands of Union soldiers, the plunder, the rapes, the cruelty from men who also had families of their own back at home in the North. We see starvation, diseases, fires and many left with untold sorrows, deaths of their children. Amie herself changes of course during this period, from a young carefree girl, to a young woman trying to understand the cruelties. There will be moments of kindnesses and one particular brave act of friendship, when all the women must pull together to save their town.

I have read this author for many years, her historical mysteries being one of my favorites, and was equally as impressed by her writing in this novel. Her research is impeccable as she includes an author's note at the end of the book. It is once again wonderful to read another book that features the trials of the women left behind, realizing that their war at home was as noteworthy as that of the men fighting. An amazingly vivid book, memorable characters and a look at some brave people whom did the best they could to survive during a time of horrific cruelty and uncertainty.

ARC from Netgalley. ( )
  Beamis12 | Nov 26, 2016 |
Good Time Coming by C.S. Harris is a 2016 Severn House publication.

“War in all men’s eyes shall be a monster of iniquity, in the good time coming

Nations shall not quarrel then, to prove which is the stronger

Nor slaughter men for glory’s sake

Wait a little longer.”

This is C.S. Harris like you have never known her before! The popular author of the beloved Sebastian St. Cyr Victorian mystery series has taken on the Civil War from the Southern perspective, in a raw, powerful, work of historical fiction that will leave you as haunted as the characters brought to life through the pages in this book.

St. Francisville, Louisiana, a river town that has escaped much of the hardships of the war, finds their luck has turned when New Orleans falls.

Twelve year old, Amrie is surrounded by good friends and family, although her parents garnered some disdain due to their abolitionist leanings. But, when the realities of war soon closes in around them on all sides, the women left behind to fend for themselves, must pull together, because they will need every single ounce of fortitude and courage to face the very dark, violent, and dangerous times ahead of them.

First of all, it is important to note, this book is about the harsh realities of war, which means it can be very violent, harsh, brutal and painful. The author does not hold back or sugar coat anything, laying bare a stark depiction of the hardships and cruelty all southern women, from the genteel and well bred, protected ladies, to those less fortunate, both black and white, endured during the Civil War.

The story is told from the first- person perspective of Amrie, as she relates the atmosphere of her hometown, the fear that gripped them, the Federal attacks that not only left the land raped and scorched, pillaged and ruined but also left many women and children in that same condition.

Amrie, and her mother, are two strong women, ahead of their time, who exhibited forward thinking, and did what had to be done to protect themselves. They suffered great losses, felt a deep compassion and learned the depths of which humanity can sink or rise when faced with unbearable adversity.

The author has thoroughly researched journals and writings of Southern women who lived during this time, and boldly strips away that common myth that the Union soldiers did not rape or abuse women – all women- while they tore through the south.

Amrie’s voice is so heart wrenchingly real, so compelling and soulful, I felt as though I was living the events she described through her eyes. But, every single woman in this book will touch you in some way. Some were likeable, some remained an enigma, while others were a true inspiration and heroes in their own right.

This story is intense, but the characters are worth the emotional wringer you must endure, with a heart thumping, edge of your seat conclusion that filled my heart and allowed me to experience a little peace of mind, knowing these strong, admirable women would make it through to the next chapter of their lives despite the scars indelibly seared on their souls, with grace and aplomb, will do right by one another, and will become an inspiration and role model for many generations to come.

This in an outstanding novel, written with sympathy, but with bold candor, with no holds barred! I can’t express how impressed I am with the job C.S. Harris did with this book. I applaud her bravery and skill in addressing such difficult passages and subject matters and ugly truths that were badly in need of exposure.

Overall, this book is extraordinary and remarkable!! Hilda’s words to Colonel O’Keefe will ring in my ears for many days to come, and I will carry Armie’s courage and her incredible story in my heart for a long, long time to come.

5 stars ( )
  gpangel | Oct 31, 2016 |
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