Paperback: 458 pages $15.00
Publisher: Top Publications, Ltd. (July 22, 2019)
Also available for Kindle $7.99
BLURB: Lenore James, a woman of independent means who has outlived three husbands, is determined to disentangle her brother Gilbert from the beguiling Charlotte Eden. Chafing against misogyny and racism in the post-Civil War South, Lenore learns that Charlotte’s husband is enmeshed in the re-enslavement schemes of a powerful judge, and she worries that Gilbert’s adoration of Charlotte will lead him into disaster.
Inspired by a production of Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale”, Lenore adopts the role of Paulina for herself to discover how far Charlotte’s husband bears the blame for his wife’s fate and whether or not he is capable of atonement. In her process of unraveling the intricacies of the lives of others, Lenore finds that Gilbert’s love for Charlotte is, indeed, his saving grace while Lenore’s passion for creative expression is her own.
REVIEW: This novel is an enjoyable read on so many levels, and it has some of the best descriptions that I’ve read in quite a while. Just one example is this visual of a flock of sparrows feeding in a graveyard in the fall. “The sparrows’ brown feathers had been indistinguishable from the withered leaves through which they sifted, and in the next, their wings lifted clear in a gust, stirring the air in their upward passage before they reconfigured themselves like a cluster of Autumn leaves miraculously returned to the branches of an oak.”
And in another passage, “The rain itself would cling in various stages of dispersion along his coat sleeves, the newest drops holding their spherical shape another moment before breaking open and spilling their contents into the weave of dark gray wool.”
The use of language to paint word pictures, as well as the author’s deft hand at characterization, reflects her background and experience in dramatics and visual arts. Using Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale” as a parallel to the plot of Only Charlotte is a literary device that works seamlessly and quite well, and while reading I looked forward to the next time the two plot lines intertwined as quietly as “A noiseless patient spider.” ACT IV, Scene IV
At just the right times throughout the story, that allusion of the spider was used effectively as a harbinger of the next unexpected plot twist.
Lenore is by far my favorite character – the closest in personality to the author I suspect – with Gilbert only slightly behind. His kindness and compassion makes him a true “healer” and that is displayed quite effectively in how his heart breaks when seeing people, especially children, suffering unnecessarily as the result of the difficult time in which people were living in those years following Reconstruction.
Lenore is a more pragmatic character as reflected in the reverie she has about her late husband, Bartholomew James, who shortly after marriage changed from a considerate romantic to a self-centered elitist. Her musing ends with, “Well, he has gone to his reward. My Equanimity returned.”
Charlotte, around whom the entire story revolves, is a little harder to label. Through most of the story she is a weak, rather hapless person and things happen to her as opposed to her making decisions and taking action. But here again, the author does not disappoint. At just the right time Charlotte does take charge of her life, showing some backbone I always suspected existed.
Overall, this was a delightful book, and I highly recommend it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Rosemary Poole-Carter explores aspects of an uneasy past in her novels Only Charlotte, Women of Magdalene, What Remains, and Juliette Ascending, all set in the post-Civil War South. Her plays include The Familiar, a ghost story, and The Little Death, a Southern gothic drama. Fascinated by history, mystery, and the performing and visual arts, she is a member of the Historical Novel Society, Mystery Writers of America, and the Dramatists Guild of America. A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, she was a long-time resident of Houston, where she practiced her devotion to reading and writing with students of the Lone Star College System. She now lives and writes by the Eno River in Durham, North Carolina.
Do plan on coming back on Wednesday when Rosemary will be my guest with a fun exchange between herself and Lenore.