Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mini opinion: The Union Quilters by Jennifer Chiaverini

Hardcover, 352 pages
Published February 22nd 2011 by Dutton Adult
ISBN: 0525952039 (ISBN13: 9780525952039)
edition language : English

From the publisher:

In 1862, the men of Water's Ford, Pennsylvania, rally to President Lincoln's call while Dorothea Granger marshals her friends to "wield their needles for the Union." Meanwhile, Anneke Bergstrom hides the shame she feels for her husband's pacifism; gifted writer Gerda Bergstrom takes on local Southern sympathizers in the pages of the Water's Ford Register; and Constance Wright struggles to help her husband gain entry to the Union Army-despite the color of his skin. As the women work, hope, and pray, the men they love confront loneliness, boredom, and danger on the battlefield. But the women of the sewing circle also forge a new independence that will forever alter the patchwork of life in the Elm Creek Valley.

My thoughts: Finally finished! A good portion of this book is as dry as dust. Reads like a recitation on the civil war; too much "tell me" with not enough "show me" especially with the characters. I really only found a few paragraphs where I could tell what the character was truly feeling.

"But she could not overcome the dull lethargy that had settled upon her in the wake of --'s death. (avoiding a spoiler) She could not bear to hear again how her husband was a hero, that the had died for a noble cause, and that her own sacrifice had ennobled her as his black-clad widow. He had died a hero's death, and for that reason her loss was a public one; it belonged to the town, to the nation. Other women might have found strength and solace in that, but she did not want to share her private grief with anyone. She wanted to be left alone to mourn."

That's still a lot of "tell me" writing but it's the best it gets.

Granted, it's interesting that the women who were left behind managed to do so much to raise money with their quilting for the troops and still managed to run the family farm or business. Their courage was immense but what choice did they have?  Although, I did wonder at how true it was that they could get the supplies necessary to make so many quilts during wartime.

The most emotion this book brought out in me was the feeling of sadness at the deprivations of supplies felt most by the soldiers, the deplorable prison conditions and the waste of so many lives. Of course, any war documentary would make me feel this same way. I just wish the whole story had been written with a little more fictional feeling and with deeper looks into each character and not quite as dryly.

I've read one other book in this Elm Creek Quilts series and enjoyed it a lot, so unfortunately this was a little disapointing for me. Fans of Civil War fiction in no-nonsense fact style might very well appreciate it more than I did. 2.5 **

For more info about Ms. Chiaverini and her books, please visit her website.

Disclosure: A review copy of the book was provided by SA/Plume  in exchange for my honest opinion.


  1. I think that dry books are the worst, and they put me in a bad mood. Kudos to you for sticking it out, even when you knew it wasn't working for you. That takes some dedication!

  2. It was a lot of information, but I found it fascinating and went on to read a non-fiction book about women spies in the civil war. One of them was included in the Union Quilters. The woman who went to Libby Prison and helped the doctor and helped the prisoners to escape was a real woman. You are right that it was kind of flat emotionally, but interesting fact-wise. Some historical fiction gets that way.

  3. I remember reading a book from this period that was also mostly informational. Very interesting, but ohhh soooo boring! ARGHH! I read the first book in this series and decided that was enough for me. Thanks for the honest review!

  4. Darn! I'm disappointed to see it's dry.

  5. I've read all of her books in the series and I absolutely was disappointed with this one too!!!!

  6. This isn't for me even if wasn't dry but it sounds like it was a bit of work to read.

  7. I like quilting, but not the Civil War period. I found this entry in the Elm Creek Quilters series to be pretty boring and predictable. I didn't like the other one set in the Civil War period, either (The Runaway Quilt??). I did like the books about the modern day quilters although I got a little tired of Sarah's relationship with her mother.

  8. Sorry for the disappointment but good for you for sticking it out. I know I couldn't continue if the book was slow.

  9. I love this series, but am way behind. That's disappointing that this was dry...too bad, but I will still give it a go when I catch up on the books.

  10. Too bad it was dry for what could have been an interesting story!


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