Varina by Charles Frazier is a story about the second wife of Jefferson Davis. Even though I have lived in the South not far from Jefferson’s last home on the Gulf Coast, I have never had much interest in him or his family. Well, Frazier did and here you will find his view of the woman beside the man who led the Confederacy.
Varina was essentially forced to marry Davis; a man old enough to be her father and then some. In those days, it was a common occurrence. It seems he was still in love with his late first wife and that didn’t make the situation any bed of roses for Varina whose life held one tragedy after another. She outlived her children, suffered greatly after the war between the states ended in the defeat of the South, was separated from her children, put in prison, and repeatedly lost almost everything she owned.
This isn’t a happy tale. In many ways, it reminded me of Gone With the Wind. One major difference was that Varina was no Scarlet. In fact, she didn’t appear to be prejudiced against the slaves. The story incorporates a boy of African-American descent she rescued and raised along with her children for a period of years before and during the war.
Even though I didn’t appreciate the way in which Varina’s life story was told in this particular novel, I think she was a woman before her time and that was of interest to me.