In The Unconquered, Ben Ames Williams picks up the story of the South during the mid-1800s that he began in House Divided.
Having lost their estates, Major Travis Currain and family move to New Orleans where he hopes to revive their fortunes by manufacturing cottonseed oil.
Trav’s old-South family ties and friendship with men of vastly different political persuasions let him see the events of Reconstruction from a variety of angles. Trav refuses to be drawn into Louisiana politics himself, but rising political tensions strike home anyway. Trav’s son, Peter, finds outlet for his sadism in murdering blacks; his daughter, Lucy, marries a former Maine schoolteacher who works for the despised Freedman’s Bureau.
Few writers can handle historical fiction as well as Williams, and here he is in top form.
The Unconquered shows the cauldron of Louisiana politics seething until it boils over, slinging death in all directions. Enough animosity remains for many years of smaller spills.
With the exception of the totally rotten Peter Currain, the characters are each believable mixes of good and bad traits, but Williams makes even Peter believable.
The Unconquered drives home the point that the war isn’t over when the fighting ends—a truism as valid in Iraq or Afghanistan as in Louisiana.The Unconquered By Ben Ames Williams Houghton Mifflin, 1953 683 pages 1953 bestseller #10 My grade A-
Photo credit: Natural Cotton by robertz65 http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1399348