[This review is based on the hardcover edition published by Crown Publishing in 2014, and provided by Blogging for Books.]
The single-sentence synopsis:
Rosetta Wakefield, wishing to stick close to her new husband, Jeremiah, changes her appearance to that of a man, enlists in the 97th New York regiment of the Union Army, and follows Jeremiah into the American Civil War.
Judging the cover:
So beautiful and somewhat mysterious…what does Rosetta look like under that title paper?? The background is a pretty blue, reminiscent of the color of the Jacob’s ladder flower that Jeremiah gives Rosetta in a flashback, while the marble calls to mind the coldness of stone — death, maybe? I Shall Be Near to You in life and in death? I’ll have to read and find out! (And I LOVE the bit of map on the binding!)
First thought I had after I finished reading:
I’ve just found my new favorite work of historical fiction!!
And here’s why:
If you were to ask me why I love historical fiction so much, this is one of the books I would hand to you. Well-researched and well-written, I Shall Be Near to You is not only wonderful for-pleasure reading, but it’s also a book I wish had existed when I was studying American history in high school or college. The stories of female soldiers are not nearly as well-known or frequently discussed as those of their male counterparts, but their contributions to history are equally important. I think this book would have drawn a great deal more interest from the girls in my history classes than the textbooks we were given — we can’t exactly relate to the machismo of Generals Grant and Lee, you know?
I connected to Rosetta on so many levels, which was a credit to both the character and her creator. (I’m not sure I would follow The Hubby into war if he enlisted, but I think that has to do with fear of being a terrible soldier and with being thrust into terrible violence and bloodshed and really not at all about Hubs.) Not only does Rosetta do exactly this, but she does it with virtually no fear and an incredible resolve. That alone is reason enough to cheer for her, but then she proceeds to become a more competent soldier than some of her male counterparts — all while keeping the huge secret of her true identity. She’s an incredibly strong, thoughtful woman and the fact that she’s based on a real person just makes her that much more admirable. I truly love that her husband is more important to her than really anything else in the world; as it was in the 1860s, women weren’t landowners and had no political roles, so their husbands were really all they had. That doesn’t mean these women had to be head-over-heels crazy about their spouses, but that’s exactly the case when it comes to Rosetta and Jeremiah. While he is unhappy about Rosetta voluntarily putting herself in danger to be with him, it turns out to be the greatest thing that could have happened to Jeremiah when it ultimately, truly matters.
As for their regiment, I wanted to punch Hiram in the face (and I said as much during my live-tweeting) and give Will a huge hug. I also found myself wishing I could have known what happened to Will and all the other surviving members of the regiment after the end of the story. I also really wished that Rosetta hadn’t been so stubborn to refuse to take Will up on his offer; both of them could clearly use a friend and, after all they’ve been through together, why not each other?
I Shall Be Near to You is a reminder that love is worth fighting for, and that it can survive in even the darkest of places. It’s a love story for the ages, and it belongs on the TBR pile of everyone with any kind of interest in historical fiction, love stories, or the Civil War. Even if you don’t have any interest in any of those things — if you just like to read beautifully detailed, strongly-written novels — I strongly suggest checking this out!
On a scale of 1-5, I would give it a…
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
Before you purchase a copy online, why don’t you enter my latest giveaway? Erin Lindsay McCabe, the lovely and talented author of I Shall Be Near to You, has offered to give away one signed hardcover copy of her fabulous book! Use the widget below to enter — the giveaway closes next Thursday, August 14. Good luck!!!
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