When pick up a historical fiction, I want to be whisked away into that time period. Author Erin Lindsay McCabe transported me smack dab into the U.S. Civil War with her novel I Shall Be Near to You. In fact, I saw the Civil War from a perspective I’ve never seen before: from the eyes of a woman disguised as a man in the Union Army. The novel is inspired by letters of Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, who fought in the war as Private Lyons Wakeman.
In the novel, newlywed Rosetta doesn’t want her husband to enlist in the army, but Jeremiah joins up thanks to the promise of good money. He wants to buy them a farm of their own. Rosetta’s father encouraged her to think for herself and work the family’s farm growing up. Now that she’s a wife, she is unable to sit indoors and do what’s expected of her: cook, mend clothes, and other chores traditionally regulated to women. Instead, she disguises herself as a man and runs off to enlist, hoping that she’ll be in the same regiment as her husband. Jeremiah is none to happy when discovers what she’s done but it’s too late to turn back.
It’s very evident that the author did her research for the novel, which allowed her to bring Rosetta’s story alive for the readers. It’s a pet peeve of mine when I read historical fiction and the characters speak like they’re from present day. Not so with this book. The language fits in with the period.
The book was a quick read for me because of the pace and the battle scenes. Seeing the war from Rosetta’s perspective definitely made me wonder about all the women who did what she did. I do wish that some of themes in the novel could have been expanded upon more, mainly women’s rights and slavery.
Overall, I enjoyed this novel. If you like historical fiction, you should definitely add I Shall Be Near to You by Erin Lindsay McCabe to your to-read list.
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I received a review copy of the book.