Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Separate Country

A Separate Country by Robert Hicks
432 pages
Published September 2009 by Grand Central Publishing
Source: I won it in a drawing

Eli Griffin has been left a task by a dying man, a man he had tried to kill years earlier. Major General John Bell Hood, late of the Confederate army, knows that he can make Griffin feel obliged to discharge an obligation to make up for that attempt and in his dying hours sets Griffin to a task that will bring him into contact with characters that could not populate any city except New Orleans.

John Hood left the war with an arm he could not use and a leg that had been amputated yet the wounds that most profoundly marked him were the wounds that couldn't be seen. Hood was bitter and conflicted about what he had done in his years in the army and deeply disappointed with the legacy that he had left. He spent much of the rest of his life writing a book attempting to set the record straight. On his death bed, however, he tells Griffin that he wants that book destroyed and a more recent accounting of his life published. This is the story of his life with Anna Marie Hennen, a New Orleans beauty who was inexplicably drawn to the shattered man, who gave birth to his eleven children and who introduced him to people who could only have lived in New Orleans.

Griffin is left to deal with these people as he attempts to retrieve the original book from from Confederate General Beauregarde and to find a killer who Hood says must approve the publication of the second book. Along the way Griffin is drawn more deeply into the world that Hood has inhabited since he first met Anna Marie, a world that includes the dwarf, Rintrah, a priest without a church, Father Mike, and the memory of a beloved man whose legacy seems to contradict what Griffin learns about him.

Hicks moves the story of Griffin's task back and forth between the writings that both Hood and Anna Marie have left and Griffin's own search for the truth in a way that keeps the story moving along and never seems to become confusing (as can so often happen when authors choose this method of story telling). The story moves back and forth in time, slowly revealing new surprises along the way. Hicks does a marvelous job of creating multi-layered characters - in even the most hardened characters there is a soft place reserved for loved ones and old hurts. The city of New Orleans comes alive in Hicks' hands as does the time period immediately following the American Civil War.

Unfortunately, the book fell flat for me in the end. The story became too complex and implausible for me and a character that was introduced late in the story and seemed to be somewhat pivotal was never fully explained to my satisfaction. Still I enjoyed the book overall and I would recommend it for lovers of historical fiction, particularly those who enjoy stories revolving around the American Civil War.

I read this book for the War Through The Generations Challenge.


  1. I've been curious about this one. The implausibility makes me hesitant, but then again, you did enjoy it overall. Will keep this in mind at any rate. Your review will be featured on War Through the Generations on 12/30. Thanks for participating!

  2. I agree. The book overall fell flat for me.

  3. I have this book and have had it for a couple of years, but have not got to it yet. I still haven't even finished Widow of the South, which I was really enjoying, but had to put aside. Have you read that one? I do hate when a much anticipated book falls flat, but I'll still give it a read, just because I do like Hicks' writing.

    How have you been, Lisa? It's been awhile. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and wishing you a very happy and prosperous new year! I promise I'll be better about stopping by in the new year. =O)

  4. I won this book in a giveaway last year, and have not gotten the chance to read it yet. It does sound sort of interesting, and I haven't read much about the Civil War, so I suspect that this might be a good read for me. I am sorry to hear that it fell a little flat for you though, and that it wasn't as excellent as you had hoped it would be. I will have to let you know what I think of it when I am done!

  5. Oh No....I hate it when a book does that at the end. I had so much hope for this story too!!