Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Tale of Two Civil War Ladies

Cinnamon and cream describes two young girls, one a slave, the other her mistress. As children they are playmates, but when they grow up, Jule, a slave, realizes that she will never have the same opportunities as her mistress, Julia.

Julia Dent is the daughter of a Missouri slave holder. She falls in love with Ulysses S. Grant and vows to follow him so they can always be together. After the Mexican War, Ulysses leaves the military, and they have hard times, but as the Civil War approaches, he returns to uniform and leads the Union troops. Although married to a Union general, Julia can't give up her belief in slavery. She takes Jule with her whenever she can, but in spite of their long term relationship, she can never treat her as an equal.

The lives of Julia and Ulysses S. Grant are well documented historically and portrayed accurately. I did feel that too often we were just reading history without the emotional content of a novel. However, to be true to the Grant's story the author couldn't go too far from the historical account.

Little is known about the real Jule. She was mentioned in a few places in Julia Grant's papers, but her story is almost completely fiction. I thought the author did a good job bringing Jule to life. She was in many ways more real than Julia. The story of the two girls highlights the problems of slavery. Even slave owners, like Julia, who tried to take care of their slaves couldn't see them as people with the same needs they had. Julia found it almost incomprehensible that Jule would want freedom, the right to marry and have her own family.

I enjoyed this book. The beginning where we meet the two girls was delightful. The middle recounts battles and Julia moving around to be with Ulysses and is somewhat boring unless you're interested in Civil War history. It's also the portion of the story where we hear little about Jule. The ending wraps up nicely, so if you get bogged down in the middle, keep going the ending is worth it.

I reviewed this book for Dutton.