Varina by Charles FrazierVarina by Charles Frazier


byCharles Frazier

Paperback | April 3, 2018 | Large Print

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Sooner or later, history asks, which side were you on?

In his powerful new novel, Charles Frazier returns to the time and place of Cold Mountain, vividly bringing to life the chaos and devastation of the Civil War

Her marriage prospects limited, teenage Varina Howell agrees to wed the much-older widower Jefferson Davis, with whom she expects the secure life of a Mississippi landowner. Davis instead pursues a career in politics and is eventually appointed president of the Confederacy, placing Varina at the white-hot center of one of the darkest moments in American history—culpable regardless of her intentions.

The Confederacy falling, her marriage in tatters, and the country divided, Varina and her children escape Richmond and travel south on their own, now fugitives with “bounties on their heads, an entire nation in pursuit.”

Intimate in its detailed observations of one woman’s tragic life and epic in its scope and power, Varina is a novel of an American war and its aftermath. Ultimately, the book is a portrait of a woman who comes to realize that complicity carries consequences.


Charles Frazier was born in 1950 and grew up in western North Carolina. Frazier received his bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of North Carolina and his doctorate in American literature from the University of South Carolina. He taught at the University of Colorado and North Carolina State University before writing his...
Title:VarinaFormat:Paperback | Large PrintDimensions:512 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.02 inPublished:April 3, 2018Publisher:HarperCollinsLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0062406019

ISBN - 13:9780062406019

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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Historical Fiction at Its Best When you launch into a Charles Frazier novel, you expect a sweeping, historical epic with razor sharp detail of the era and the physical landscape. “Varina” does not disappoint. It is set in one of the most controversial times in U.S. history – the civil war and the troubled years that followed it, which Frazier revisits with unyielding intensity. The novel is told from the perspective of Varina Howell – a strong, educated woman with limited marriage prospects who opts for security and weds the much older, Mississippi landowner Jefferson Davis. Davis enters politics and rises to be appointed president of the Confederacy. The loose bonds of their marriage are tested by the turbulent war years and the aftermath of being on the wrong side. Frazier anchors the novel in a series of meetings and conversations between Varina and James Blake – a former slave known as Limber Jimmie who Varina rescued from a beating on the street and took into her home as one her own children. Captured as she flees south with her children as the war is ending, James is taken from Varina and later becomes a teacher with only vague memories of his childhood. James tracks down Varina years later to fill in the gaps in his memory. Varina’s recollections in her conversations with James take us backward and forward in time as she relates her tragic life, the burden of complicity and how she survived largely on will alone. “Varina” is historical fiction at its best and showcases Frazier’s mastery as a novelist. It is the kind of novel you are sorry to reach the end of because reading and experiencing it is such a pleasure.
Date published: 2018-08-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Entertaining historical fiction I have never read anything surrounding the American civil war. I quite enjoyed this book...the character, Varina, was strong in my opinion, for the time.
Date published: 2018-04-23

Editorial Reviews

“Beautifully rendered…Frazier in this, his fourth novel, lyrically resurrects the blasted but hauntingly beautiful Southern landscape just after the war...Varina Davis becomes a marvelously fallible character, complicated enough to stand on her compromised own.”