Monday, June 23, 2014

Jocelyn Green's "Yankee in Atlanta" - deep in the heart of the Civil War

Yankee in Atlanta, Heroines Behind the Lines Series #3   -     By: Jocelyn Green
In the third of her Heroines Behind the Lines, Jocelyn Green explores life in Atlanta during the Civil War and what happened to the Yankees living there.  Caitlin McKae dressed as a man and joined the Union Army to keep an eye on her brother, but an injury and case of mistaken identity brings her to Atlanta, where she gets by with her Irish accent, though many suspect her for a Union sympathizer, if not an outright spy.  When the school closes where she is teaching, German immigrant Noah Becker hires her to be a governess for his daughter while he joins the Confederate army.  Trapped in Atlanta during Sherman's siege and falling in love with a Confederate soldier, her loyalties are torn.  Not a Rebel, yet not quite a Yankee anymore either, will there ever be a place for her in this divided country?

Unlike Widow of Gettysburg, Yankee in Atlanta ties in closely to the first novel of the series, Wedded to War, continuing the stories of Ruby O'Flannery and chaplain Edward Goodrich.  I was glad to find out what happens to the two familiar characters, though since the story is billed as being about Caitlin and Noah, I would have liked there to be a little stronger focus on them; in truth it was almost fifty-fifty Caitlin/Noah and Ruby/Edward.  If the two plot lines were not so entwined, I would have enjoyed them as two separate stories. 

Like Green's other two novels, this one is clearly well-researched, brimming with authentic details that ground it in reality.  I was shocked at the quoted prices of groceries from the height of the war, and I had no idea that there were violent draft riots in New York.  Besides the starvation and battle affecting the civilian population of Atlanta, epidemics swept through the city, preying on weak and strong alike. 

The author does an excellent job painting Caitlin into a corner where she is on both sides of the war yet belongs to neither.  While she believes in the Union, she cannot help but be horrified by what her fellow troops do to the city of Atlanta and all the women and children who reside in it.  The issue of slavery clearly separates her from the South, yet Sherman's assault ruins her for the North.  What does one do when one is part of both sides of an issue yet accepted by neither side?

Ruby and Edward's tale of grace is both painful and uplifting.  In both their tale and Caitlin's, a strong thread of hope runs through.  There is no doubt that it can be hard to hang onto that thread, but it is there, in the midst of battle and uncertainty, in a rocky marriage, when separated far from all that one loves, and even when it seems there are no options left.  Another excellent novel by Jocelyn Green - 5 out of 5 stars!

Heroines Behind the Lines
1. Wedded to War
2. Widow of Gettysburg
3. Yankee in Atlanta
4. Spy of Richmond

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