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Enemy Women Paperback – April 10, 2007
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Enemy Women, the outstanding first novel by poet Paulette Jiles, leads us into new terrain, both geographic and historical, in the war between the states. Set in the Missouri Ozarks during the Civil War, Jiles's story focuses on the trying times of 18-year-old heroine Adair Colley. When a group of renegade Union militiamen attacks the Colley home, stealing family possessions, burning everything down, and taking away her father--an apolitical judge--Adair gathers the remnants of her clothes and mounts a rescue effort. Unfortunately, she is falsely accused of being a Confederate spy, a charge that lands her in a squalid women's prison run by a decent commandant embarrassed by his post. After he helps her escape, the two agree to seek out one another after the war; their separate, harrowing journeys and the evolution of each character throughout make for breathtaking action and powerful writing. Each chapter of Enemy Women begins with excerpts from historical testimony about this terrible period in the Civil War, when marauding soldiers pillaged and murdered whole families and communities at will. These documents add depth and resonance to Jiles's remarkable narrative. --Tom Keogh --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
For Adair Randolph Colley, at 18 the eldest daughter of a widowed Missouri Ozarks schoolmaster and justice of the peace, the Civil War becomes personal when her father, who has remained neutral in the conflict, is arrested by the Union militia, their home is nearly burned and their possessions stolen. At the start of this spirited first novel, Adair and her two younger sisters try to follow their father's captors, but Adair is falsely denounced as a Confederate spy. At the prison in St. Louis, upright commandant Maj. William Neumann is embarrassed to be interrogating women and has requested a transfer to a fighting unit. He's touched by Adair's beauty and spirit and asks her to give him some information so she can be released. Instead, she writes the story of her life, augmented by folk tales and fables, and he finds himself falling in love. When he gets his reassignment orders, he proposes marriage and asks her to escape, promising to find her after the war. Thus begins a long and terrible journey for each of them. Poet and memoirist Jiles (North Spirit) has written a striking debut novel whose tone lingers poignantly. Not a typical romantic heroine, Adair has the saucy naevete of an unsophisticated countrywoman and the wily bravery born of an honest character. Jiles's strengths include a sure command of period vernacular and knowledge of the social customs among backwoods people, as well as a delicate hand with the love story. Sure to be touted as a new Cold Mountain, this stark, unsentimental, yet touching novel will not suffer in comparison. Agent, Liz Darhansoff. (Feb.)Forecast: Family stories were the basis of Jiles's plot, augmented by Civil War letters and documents prefacing each chapter. While the writing is literary, the book is more accessible than Cold Mountain, and could easily win a wide audience, boosted by regional author appearances.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Our heroine, 18 year old Adair Colley, witnesses her father beaten and arrested, her home ransacked and set afire, and her horses stolen during one such raid. Adair sets out, along with two of her siblings, to plead to the Union Army for her father's release but is denounced by a strangers on the trail and is herself arrested and jailed. While imprisoned, she is interrogated a number of times by one of the Union officers. A bond forms, but before long, the officer is reassigned, and he pledges to find her once the war is over.
The book is somewhat reminiscent of Charles Frazier's "Cold Mountain" in that there are many interesting tales of life on the road while returning home. But frankly, I much preferred Frazier's vignettes - each of which could have stood as an entrancing short story.
Like Jiles "The News of the World", this is very well written but I felt only satisfied by its end. I wanted "News" to go on and on, and I was disappointed that the journey in that story had finally ended. I would rate "News" 6 stars, one more than whatever the max is; "Enemy Women" is very good and very informative and I rate that 4 stars. I disliked Jiles' "Sitting in a Club Car...." very much but I will read her "The Color of Lightning" very soon.
Each chapter of "Enemy Women" contains a quote from a contemporary newspaper or a military report which reminds us that "terrorists" are not a 21st century phenomenon. Both sides in the American Civil War regarded the activities of irregular militias and local groups affiliated with the other side as "terrorism" and both sides took draconian measures (searching homes, destroying crops, internment camps) to combat that terrorism. Ms. Jiles cleverly uses a love story to confront us with our own forgotten past, and thereby gives us a new perspective both on that past and on current world events.
"Enemy Women" is worth reading not only for the beauty and grace of its language, but as a rip-roaring yarn about a spunky girl overcoming the danger and confusion of civil war as she struggles to escape from internment and to return to her home and family.