This fictionalization of the life of historical Macon, Georgia, native Anne Johnston presents a faithful depiction of her life before, during, and after the Civil War. The novel portrays Anne’s growing love for her much older husband and details the deaths of several of their infant children. The hardships that the Civil War brings cause Anne to become increasingly bitter about the loss of their Southern way of life, although her husband’s enormous wealth survives the war. A subplot segues into the life of her friend and fellow Macon native, Sidney Lanier, Georgia’s beloved poet laureate, before the story returns to Anne.
One of the problems of this novel is its faithful adherence to so many of the events in Anne’s life. This robs the novel of any suspense; it dutifully plods from one event to the next like an authorized biography. Another very disturbing problem is the lack of hardly any mention of slaves in the novel. The author glosses over the pesky issue of the owning of other human beings by referring (as the historical Anne presumably did) to the Johnstons’ “servants.” Toward the end of the novel, aided by her faith and by one of Lanier’s inspirational poems, “Sunrise,” Anne sheds her much of her bitterness toward Northerners and learns to forgive. For the most part, the novel seems to have been written as a tribute to that tired mythology of a gracious, kind Confederacy and its vanished way of life. Recommended only for unrepentant revisionists.