Posts Tagged ‘enemy women read-along’

Adair was becoming reckless.  Where’s my father?  And you have to account for our horses, you have to write down what you took.

The soldiers to either side of her held on to her, and looked from her to the lieutenant colonel.

This state is under martial law, said Miller.  The Militia is here to enforce it.

Well, what is marshal’s law? said Adair.  You explain to me what marshal’s law is.

The U.S. Constitution is suspended, Miller said.  I am responsible for the security and peace of  this region.

I don’t know what you call peace, but you all beat up my father and took him away.  I may be confused about the term.

(from Enemy Women, page 52)

Enemy Women shows the chaos stirred up by the Civil War in southeastern Missouri through the eyes of 18-year-old Adair Colley.  Adair’s life is turned upside down when the Union Militia arrive at her family’s home in November 1864.  They beat and arrest Adair’s father, a justice of the peace, force her crippled brother to run off, steal her beloved horse, Whiskey, and force Adair and her two younger sisters to fend for themselves.  The militia sets the home on fire, and even though it is spared by the rain, Adair and her sisters can’t stay.  They set out on foot to Iron Mountain to inquire about their father, coming into contact with other refugees along the way.

When a lie is told about Adair’s loyalties, she is arrested and sent to a prison in St. Louis, where she meets Major Neumann of the Union Army, who is in charge of her case.  The two fall in love, and Neumann, who is being transferred out of the prison and into combat, wants to marry Adair after the war is over.  He urges her to escape and head toward her family home, and he will meet her there as soon as he can.

I read Enemy Women several years ago, and while I had forgotten all the details, I remember that I really liked it, which is why I recommended we read it for the War Through the Generations U.S. Civil War Challenge read-along.  Well, I think I’ve become a pickier reader since I started blogging because this time around, I had a hard time with this book.

I liked Adair’s spunk and even though she might not be representative of Southern women of the era, I admired her unwillingness to submit to mistreatment from the Union soldiers.  Even when Neumann was begging her to give him any tidbit of information so he could get her out of prison, Adair’s written “confessions” were humorous and had a fairy tale quality to them.  I even found their romance believable and loved reading their passionate conversations and humorous bantering.

However, much of the book focuses on Adair’s journey from the St. Louis prison back to her family home.  She’s sick and exhausted, and the story just plods along.  An exciting scene will pop up here and there, but for the most part, I was bored and just wanted to be finished with the book.  Even so, I didn’t hate the book.  Paulette Jiles’ writing comes alive in the few chapters that focus on Neumann, and I really enjoyed the scenes dealing with the skirmish he’s involved in as he’s joining up with his new unit.  But Neumann is scarcely seen in the last third of the book, and since I found him more interesting than Adair, I’m not surprised that the book lost steam for me.  The lack of quotation marks to distinguish the dialogue also made reading the book a chore.

While Enemy Women didn’t impress me, it did teach me about the Civil War in Missouri, especially through the inclusion of passages from historical documents at the beginning of every chapter.  Jiles also does a good job showing how hard it was for people to survive when the war is in their backyard.  Neighbors fought against and stole from one another, and people did things they normally wouldn’t do in order to survive.  Enemy Women might be worth checking out if you’re interested in Civil War novels and strong heroines, but readers shouldn’t expect a satisfying romance or a neatly tied-up ending.

Check out the read-along discussions on War Through the Generations (beware of spoilers!):

Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4

Disclosure: My copy of Enemy Women was a gift from a friend. I am an IndieBound affiliate and an Amazon associate.

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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