Wednesday, January 25, 2012

258 (2012 #3). The Union Quilters

by Jennifer Chiaverini

This was an engrossing piece of historical fiction set in Pennsylvania from 1861 - 1868.  It continues with many of the characters from The Runaway Quilt and shows the impact and effects of the Civil War on the men and women of the (fictional) Watersford community (which I always picture as being a little bit like Slippery Rock).

Chiaverini did quite a bit of research for this book, as evidenced by the bibliography in her acknowledgments at the front of the book.  She aptly demonstrates what life was like for the men who went to war (and those who didn't), the women at home (and in the community), and the free Blacks in Pennsylvania.  It's particularly appropriate with publication during the first year of the Civil War bicentennial.

The plot is compelling and the characters are intriguing.  Jonathan and Gerda were particularly interesting, obviously intelligent people, but not so wise in matters of the heart and tact, for continuing to carry a torch for the other despite Jonathan's marriage to another.

The book itself is beautiful, with a gorgeous cover that includes a white quilted background, lovely printed fabrics, an appliqué star, and a period photograph of women of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts sewing an oversized flag for the soldiers during the Civil War. The endpapers have pictures of some of the quilt blocks described in the text.

This was an easy but fascinating read.  It stands alone and it's not necessary to read other books in the Elm Creek Quilts series first (although one who's already read The Runaway Quilt will be able to make connections with this book).  As someone who has read some of the books in this series, I now want to read The Lost Quilter, which begins in 1859 immediately following the events chronicled in Gerda's memoir in The Runaway Quilt, and parallels The Union Quilters.

© Amanda Pape - 2012

[This book was borrowed from and returned to my local public library.]

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