Wednesday, September 17, 2014

I Shall Be Near To You - Erin Lindsay McCabe

I Shall Be Near To You Erin Lindsay McCabe book cover
I Shall Be Near To You by Erin Lindsay McCabe
Publisher: Crown
Publication Date: January 28, 2014
Source/Format: Author (Thank you, Erin!) || Hardcover
[I received this book for review from the publisher. This in no way affects the thoughts expressed in my review.]

Rosetta doesn't want her new husband Jeremiah to enlist, but he joins up, hoping to make enough money that they'll be able to afford their own farm someday. Though she's always worked by her father’s side as the son he never had, now that Rosetta is a wife she's told her place is inside with the other women. But Rosetta decides her true place is with Jeremiah, no matter what that means, and to be with him she cuts off her hair, hems an old pair of his pants, and signs up as a Union soldier.

With the army desperate for recruits, Rosetta has no trouble volunteering, although she faces an incredulous husband. She drills with the men, proves she can be as good a soldier as anyone, and deals with the tension as her husband comes to grips with having a fighting wife. Rosetta's strong will clashes with Jeremiah's while their marriage is tested by broken conventions, constant danger, and war, and she fears discovery of her secret even as they fight for their future, and for their lives.

Let me be honest here: it’s been much too long since I’ve properly indulged in a historical fiction novel. And it is novels like this one that make me wonder why I don’t read the genre more often! I Shall Be Near To You, McCabe’s debut, has all the things I love about this genre within its pages: strong setting, memorable characters and a compelling plot. While it didn’t quite reduce me to tears, I Shall Be Near To You turned out to be a powerful piece of writing that has reminded me what I loved about historical fiction in the first place. 

Historical fiction grants readers the opportunity to immerse themselves in an era or setting. I Shall Be Near To You does an excellent job portraying this particular period of time, using true details from historical accounts to make everything seem even more authentic. I was completely immersed in Rosetta’s world, from the serenity of their village to the intensity of bloodshed during battle. It felt like I’d been pulled back in time, really, experiencing everything firsthand, and that definitely showcases both McCabe’s research and writing ability. 

The plot of I Shall Be Near To You is simple: Rosetta disguises herself as a man to be with her husband Jeremiah as he fights in the Civil War. What makes the story so compelling is all the careful detail that went into it, from Rosetta’s deception as a man (which was seriously believable), their training and camps and their battles. It’s seriously one of those stories where I kept turning the pages in a bid to find out what would happen next, whether it would break my heart or make me break into a cheer. 

But, really, the reason I loved I Shall Be Near To You so? The characters, of course! Rosetta, in particular, won me over immediately. She’s one tough lady, and I can always get behind a girl who knows her own mind. I loved her fortitude, her stubbornness and her wits. I’d definitely want her by my side if I were fighting in a battle, or nursing wounded soldiers, or running a farm; she’s just so capable that it really, truly impressed me. There are also other women, who played impressive, unexpected roles during the war; then, of course, there are the men, with Jeremiah (Rosetta’s devoted husband) and Will (one of their fellow soldiers) standing out from the rest. 

I Shall Be Near To You is just as riveting, challenging and moving as I was expecting it to be. It was easy to get pulled into Rosetta’s story, especially as readers will want to find out how things turn out for her + Jeremiah. It’s also inspired a newfound fascination with the Civil War era for this reader, especially focused on the contributions of women. I really enjoyed I Shall Be Near To You, and can certainly endorse it as a great example of historical fiction. 

(Off topic a bit, but there were definitely moments + situations that reminded me of Mulan when I was reading I Shall Be Near To You. I mean, apart from the obvious (women disguising themselves as men and joining the army), there are a few particular experiences during training and camp that really reminded me of the Disney film. So, just for kicks, I’ve included the video for I'll Make a Man Out of You below.)

1 comment:

  1. Just read 'Unearthy' And its fantastic! Especially for teenage readers. (What i recommend) I'm getting the rest of the series on amazon. I really recommend it and i couldn't stop reading it!

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