Book Review: The Rebel Wife – Taylor M. Polites

Title: The Rebel Wife
Author: Taylor M. Polites
ISBN: 9781451629514
Pages: 304
Release Date: February 7, 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary:

Augusta Branson is a young widow living in post-Civil War Alabama.  Her husband, Eli, has just died, adding to the many things that have changed about her world over the last few years.  Completely alone, Augusta must protect herself and her household staff against the whispers of the community – after all, Augusta’s husband was an activist on behalf of the slaves, an unpopular view in the South.  When Augusta learns of a bundle of money her husband hid before he died, Augusta must work with a former slave to find it before those who wish her harm do.

Review:

The Rebel Wife is a rich portrait of the post-Civil War South.  Polites’ descriptions are vivid and his details are mesmerizing.  He clearly researched this novel thoroughly, ensuring that he could bring this setting alive for the reader.  He immerses the reader completely in this hot, sticky world full of politics and prejudice; the tension is palpable.  It’s a searing, honest portrayal of Southern society before and after the war. 

Augusta is a fascinating character in The Rebel Wife.  At the beginning of the novel, she is a stereotypical Southern belle, a demure woman who follows orders and doesn’t associate with the rabble.  But as the novel progresses, she really breaks free of that shell.  She makes deals with the former slaves in her house, actively works against a well-respected man who claims to be looking out for her, looks into her husband’s finances and investments, and more than anything, tries to understand what is going on in the world around her.  I loved getting to know Augusta and watch her come into her own.  And indeed, this is true of many characters in the novel; though they start as stereotypes, they overcome these labels over the course of the book.

The main character is also fascinating because of her history.  Augusta’s family were slave-owning nobility in antebellum Alabama society.  But, for some reason, Augusta was forced into a marriage to Eli, an activist against slavery.  Even Augusta isn’t fully aware of all the details surrounding her marriage, but one thing is clear from the beginning of the novel: she resents it.  But as the book progresses, and Augusta learns more about Eli posthumously, she realizes that things were much more complicated than they seemed.  Polites weaves Augusta’s complicated history well, and it serves as both a source of character development and a strong plot device to keep the reader hooked.

The Rebel Wife is an interesting look at the post-War South, at a time where racial tensions were high.  Polites combines the history with intriguing characters and turns this novel into a suspenseful read.  Though there are some slow spots towards the middle of the book, it’s still a novel well worth reading, and would work perfectly as a book club pick.

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Comments

  1. There is nothing I find more enjoyable than a female protagonist that finds her footing and takes charge of her life. That, coupled with the sense of South, makes this a great read. (My review is coming Thursday!)

  2. There is nothing I find more enjoyable than a female protagonist that finds her footing and takes charge of her life. That, coupled with the sense of South, makes this a great read. (My review is coming Thursday!)

  3. I really liked Gus too! Even though she was repressed because of the times, she was strong when she needed to be!

  4. I really liked Gus too! Even though she was repressed because of the times, she was strong when she needed to be!

  5. Definitely must pick this book up! Love historical fiction set in the south.

  6. Definitely must pick this book up! Love historical fiction set in the south.

  7. I really need to get this one. I love historical fiction. I don’t think I’ve read many Southern historical reads.

  8. I really need to get this one. I love historical fiction. I don’t think I’ve read many Southern historical reads.

  9. I also loved this book, and loved that Gus was such a rich character. I really relished her growth and her continued relationship with Simon and the others in her house. By the time it was all over, I was cheering her on for taking her situation in hand and for doing what needed to be done. A great read for sure. Your review was excellent as well!

  10. I also loved this book, and loved that Gus was such a rich character. I really relished her growth and her continued relationship with Simon and the others in her house. By the time it was all over, I was cheering her on for taking her situation in hand and for doing what needed to be done. A great read for sure. Your review was excellent as well!

  11. A feisty independent woman. Nothing like it!!

  12. A feisty independent woman. Nothing like it!!

  13. Sounds like just the kind of book I love, I`ve ordered it!

  14. Sounds like just the kind of book I love, I`ve ordered it!

  15. This sounds like a good one. I love historical fiction but it’s been awhile since I’ve read something with this setting.

  16. This sounds like a good one. I love historical fiction but it’s been awhile since I’ve read something with this setting.

  17. I have been waiting for the paperback, week after week I go to the bookstore to see if it is available. Excitment! Today I got it and spent 7 hours floating in my pool reading. It was everything I hoped it would be.

  18. I have been waiting for the paperback, week after week I go to the bookstore to see if it is available. Excitment! Today I got it and spent 7 hours floating in my pool reading. It was everything I hoped it would be.

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