(A Novel of the Civil War)
Author: J.D.R Hawkins
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating : ****
Rating : ****
Hiram Grunted. “Because it’s my duty to defend my home, Kit” he responded slowly, as if contemplating every word.
Hiram’s answer to Kit Lawrence emphasises the simple logic of the volunteers who chose to enlist when their country called. Hiram Summers chose to fight for his country, the land he tilled and the place where he grew up. He wanted his family, land and house safe. Isn’t that the reason why the common soldier fights a war, regardless of what the leaders and generals make it out to be?
In a nation divided into two due to different ideologies and political thought, the common man is forced to take sides and fight a battle which becomes his own. The American Civil war was one such event in History. When the North fought the South, Hiram, a farmer in Alabama, chose to enlist and was assigned to the newly constituted 4th Alabama Infantry of the Confederate Army.
The Novel plots his travails on the battlefield and of his family bearing his absence. His son David is unwillingly left behind and tries to find adventure nearer home and risks his life by repeatedly visiting Huntsville, which has been invaded by the Yankees, with his friend Jake Kimball. Caroline, Hiram’s wife and his daughters wait for him. They try to live a normal life and take care of their farm helped and protected by David, now the “Man” in the family. Does Hiram come back? Will David become responsible? It will be a startling discovery for the reader and a very intriguing read all the way to the end.
The work provides a proud revelation of the gallant effort of the 4th Alabama, relating true incidents from the recordings of Mr. R.T Cole, a soldier in the volunteer Infantry. The realistic portrayal of unflinching patriotism and chivalry of the soldiers, their camaraderie and friendship is touching and awe-inspiring. At the same time it is like watching the war from close quarters and it makes one realise the futility of it when every loss of life brings grief.
When Hiram realises the meaninglessness of war, the reader empathises with him. It portrays how in times of strife families are torn apart and their lives are changed forever, notwithstanding the reasons and justifications of war. How the youth have to grow up suddenly when they are forced to take the places of their fathers and their innocence and exuberance is smothered in the aftermath, hits home after reading the story.
The novel is presented as a prequel to the author’s first novel “A Beckoning Hellfire”. For someone who has not read it yet, it will be a very interesting story after the prequel. For someone who has read it will be still more interesting to know what lead to it all.
The style is fast paced and exciting but sometimes the descriptive paragraphs about the battle become long-winding. The characters are very well formed and come out as very real three dimensional people with a gamut of feelings and expressions. Especially likable is the chemistry between Hiram and Caroline and their unflinching trust and understanding. The plot is well knit and one incident flows into another.
“The Beautiful Glittering Lie” – the dream of bravery, adventure, gallantry and Chivalry-that pulls David to enlist, remains intact for him till the end when the children are waiting for Hiram to return home on Christmas.