Book Review: A Bit of Colored Ribbon: A Novel of The Civil War by Craig S. Whitmore (four stars)
“And you want them to put a bit of colored ribbon on your body and sing hymns around you too?” “I just want to be remembered in some way.”
Solid historical fiction. Excellent everyman view of the Civil War. Slave, conductor, and soldier’s eye view of slavery, underground railroad, and war. Origin, status, and role of Contrabands. Little heroics; lots of danger and tedium. Rumors are the primary source of news. (Somethings never change.) More real than Gone with the Wind or Red Badge of Courage.
“I’ll help you, but we do it quietly, we do it safely, we harm no one. That’s my terms.” “Now where’s the fun in that?”
Multidimensional characters. Good and bad in bad and good folks. Prejudice among Union soldiers, some of whom fought to preserve union, not free slaves. Compassion among slaveholders.
“It don’t matter what name you born with. It what name you make fo’ yo’self make de difference.”
Whitmore explains his extensive use of dialect, but it slows the reading and adds the judgmental tone which he says is the opposite of his intention. Storytelling is a bit “on the nose”; he explains when showing would have had more impact.
“Martyrdom only shows the intensity of their beliefs, not the correctness of them. There are causes worth dying for, but none worth killing for. Murder is still murder.”
Quibbles: “January 20, 1861. Abraham Lincoln at last took the oath of office.” No, the inauguration was still in March in 1861. Other minor infractions. (Huge spoiler on cover.)
“‘…and there is no end to the odd things humane people will say and do…’ Mrs. Stowe saw through them, Nat.” “No one listened to her.” “Many of us did.”