So Red the Rose Gives Back Home View of War

Thorns on a rose bush
Roses have thorns

So Red the Rose is a Civil War novel on which that label seems misplaced.

Stark Young looks at the war from the perspective of the people who stayed home. Instead of sweeping battle scenes, readers see women sweeping carpets, trying to keep their families and traditions alive.

Young writes the story as a series of scenes in the lives of the residents of two plantations along the Mississippi, Portobello and Montrose.  They learn about events from newspapers, letters, and gossip from someone whose cousin knew someone who was there.

You won’t catch these people crying in public.

It’s just not done.

When their homes are looted, their livelihood destroyed, their lovers and sons killed, their traditional courtesy requires the Southerners to sustain a semblance of normal life: To give in to misery would make others uncomfortable.

The novel is not a consecutive narrative. To understand what’s happening, readers have to imagine each scene, much as they would if they were reading a play.

Although So Red the Rose demands a lot from readers, it gives a unique perspective on ordinary life in a country at war.

So Red the Rose
By Stark Young
Charles Scribner’s’ Sons
431 pages
1934 bestseller # 3
My Grade: B+

Photo credit: Thorns by kriegs

© 2014 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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