Monday, 10 February 2014

Latest Review - Multi-Layered historical/contemporary novel.

“Will Hurricane Katrina destroy what the Civil War spared?”
Reviewed by Francine.
Hurricane Katrina is winding herself up off the Louisiana coast (2005), and unsuspecting Amaryllis Camilla (Cammie) O’Brien, rocks up to the River Oaks Plantation House with grand ideas for the old place. Back to her roots, the big city life behind her, not a lot has changed as far as she can tell. It’s about to, though, and when forced to wade through water that is ankle deep, and lights in the house are blinking, it’s not the best of homecomings.
Wind and water soon begin to wreak havoc and while Cammie is exploring her late grandmother’s house, water is creeping ever higher and closer to the house. Finally told to gather personal belongings by Noah Gautreaux, (trusted plantation manager), Cammie isn’t about to argue. After all, he’s an old flame, and he’s already ignited a spark that could all too easily blaze out of control: if only the Louisiana sun was shining. He though, is more concerned with getting her and two dogs safely to dry land, and what transpires is terrifying, heart-rending and requires heroic deeds by both. But, in a scary moment alone with just the dogs for company, Cammie seeks comfort from a diary found in the house: anything to take her mind off what is happening all around her.
In the aftermath of Katrina, life resumes, but how long will it take to rebuild what is lost or refurbish properties that miraculously survived? With River Oaks still standing, Cammie vows to restore it to its former glory, and with Noah’s help, she does just that. But, if not for a diary penned in the 1800s and all that it reveals, she might never have known about its hidden secrets and of those who survived the American Civil War.

Maggie and Danny (her ancestors) become as real to Cammie as though they are ghosts guiding her, allowing her to step back in time to see for herself their home and that of Maggie’s gardens: the gardens Maggie created. Semblance of those gardens still exist, though other aspects of the past have long since vanished. But the myth that all southern plantation owners mistreated their slaves is blown apart by the heroic gesture of Danny’s secret and deadly venture. And, whilst Cammie reads of Maggie and Danny building a life together beginning with 1805, she and Noah begin building theirs in the 21st century.

River Oaks Plantation in Cammie’s time zone is heart-rending for many reasons. But, as soon as a reader takes a step through the portal by way of Maggie’s diary, there are equally happy, thrilling and tragic tear-jerking moments to contend with. Ms Robinson has taken great care with her research. I highly recommend this to lovers of American history, and to those who may have preconceived ideas that all slave owners in the Deep South were despicably brutish.