12 Oct 2012

WHITE DOVES AT MORNING.

WHITE DOVES AT MORNING by JAMES LEE BURKE.

Set in Louisiana and spanning the years 1861-1868, this passionate novel of men, women and war tells the story of the author's ancestor. Confederate soldier William Burke. A classic Burke hero, innately moral to the point of lunacy, Willie is soon in conflict with his superiors. As his best friend Jim Stubblefield observes: 'the juncture of William Burke and the Confederate Army is akin to the meeting of a wrecking ball and a crystal shop.'

The characters who people these pages, many of them based on real historical figures are as memorable as any Burke has created. Mulatto, Flower Jamison is a victim of terrible abuse, but determined to better herself; Quaker abolitionist Abigail Dowling's Unionist sympathies put her in constant danger; Colonel Ira Jamison is rotten to his core yet would rise from a cesspit smelling of roses; these and many others stay powerfully in the mind in this epic tale. Like all the best war novels, WHITE DOVES AT MORNING concentrates not on battles but on the edges of grand events, the detritus that wars create, the human cost, and, in this case, the terrible aftermath. 
...... Inner front cover.

FIRST SENTENCE (Chapter 1): The black woman's name was Sarie, and when she crashed out the door of the cabin at the end of the slave quarters into the fading winter light, her lower belly bursting with the child that had already broken her water, the aftermath of the ice storm and the sheer desolate sweep of leaf-bare timber and frozen cotton acreage and frost-limned cane stalks seemed to combine and strike her face like a braided whip.

MEMORABLE MOMENT (Page 138): A local physician, untrained as a surgeon, created an operating table by propping a door across two pews, then sawed limbs off men as though he were pruning trees. After each patient was carried away, he threw a bucket of water on the table and began on the next.

MY THOUGHTS: Hmm, a hit but mainly a miss of a read as far as I'm concerned as whilst I admired the authors willingness to examine the issues surrounding race at that time and thought his descriptions of battle second to none, his characters (especially his portrayal of women) powerful if not a little improbable and, I suspect, often grossly romanticised, I felt that this was a novel gravely let down by lack of emotion.

Undoubtedly full of historical depth, White Doves At Morning is a harrowing story of war and slavery as seen through the eyes of a mix of characters both black and white, slave owner and slave, many of whom are based on actual characters - two of them I believe being relatives of the author - and yet lacking in any real emotional depth as it did I found myself unable to commit to any of them.

My main problem with this read though? Rightly or wrongly all throughout I couldn't help but get the feeling that this wasn't written just as a novel but was written with the thoughts of a movie deal in mind.

KEEP IT OR NOT?: Ex-library stock, I won't be keeping this one.


12 comments:

Trac~ said...

Thanks so much for the review. My husband would probably enjoy this one since he's such a history buff. P.S. The V-8 juice in the soup (I use it for my chili as well) makes all the difference in the world in the taste! You should try it sometime. Have a great weekend!! :)

....Petty Witter said...

I think a man would probably get more out of this than I did.

chitra said...

Hi PW,
I am amazed by the way your write reviews and the speed with which you read.

Suko said...

It sounds as if you didn't connect emotionally to the characters. Thanks for another thoughtful review.

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

Oh with something that tackles this type of issue I would have to connect with at least one character. Too bad, that might have been good otherwise.

naida said...

That's too bad there was no real connection. The storyline sounds interesting. That memorable moment is cringeworthy!

DMS said...

Sorry to hear this one was lacking in some areas for you. I haven't heard of this book- but I have heard of this author. I know my dad has read some of his books. Great review!
~Jess

Kalyan said...

Nice reading the review.

fiction-books said...

Hi Tracy,

I have to admit that I know very little about the battles and politics of the American Civil War, so the fact that this story focuses just as much on the issues of slavery and women's rights, certainly makes it sound more appealing.

I love your two highlighted passages, the writing seems to have some quality and depth to it and I am only sorry that it did not quite meet your expectations.

I hope that your next book will be more to your liking.

Have a great week.

Yvonne

Shooting Stars Mag said...

Doesn't sound like my sort of read...I do like books to have more of an emotional depth to them too.

Betty Manousos said...

what shooting stars mag, said.


this is definitely not the type of book i'd enjoy reading. really.

have a great week ahead!

big hugs!

GMR said...

How ironic that this book was so lacking in emotional connections especially with the time period covered. Better luck next read...