The Widow’s War: a novel

p. 46  “Lyddie looked up at the sky, moonless and star-pocked.  Oh, Edward, she thought, how could you possess such knowledge of my flesh and so little of my spirit?”

How could I resist a cover design using a detail of a Winslow Homer painting, “Girl With Red Stocking”?  I did not. For a mere $1.00 I have been transported to a time in New England – unfamiliar with its history, setting – yet hauntingly familiar of a not-too-distant past where women were property, with little or no rights as an individual.  If course, I was not aware of the story at the time. It was purely the art.

Author, Sally Gunning introduced me to the trials, fears, and challenges of a whaler’s wife living in Cape Cod during the mid to late 1700s.  The idea of whaling made me tentative – I almost abandoned the book, but within the first pages Lyddie had the beginnings of being an extraordinary woman facing an ordinary situation – the death of a spouse. Not unaware of the  inequalities and restrictions – both legal and societal – for women during this time period, it was not the outrage at her situation, rather it was the character herself  keeping me in that provincial setting.  She is so real – strong and fragile; repressed and loving.  I could not abandon her!

Gunning clearly loves her history – to delve into it in such depth and detail – by bringing alive the myriad situations through such well-crafted characters. No one is the caricature of a New Englander – especially the women.  I hope to someday take a “Tour of Lyddie Berry’s Satucket Village” (p. 313), book in hand.

Gunning, Sally.  The Widow’s War: a Novel.  New York: HarperCollins, 2006. Print.


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