Monday, July 20, 2009

Riding North with Amanda C. Gable

Posted By on Mon, Jul 20, 2009 at 1:00 PM

In the summer of 2001, Amanda C. Gable found the battlefields she’d been looking for. Living for the season as a resident writer of the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, she traced out an Atlantic road trip of vital Civil War sites — Appomattox, Manassas, and Gettysburg among them. Walking among the calm grassy fields of silent canons and entrenchments, Gable felt her first novel finally taking a distinct shape. It would be fair to say that Gable doesn’t write quickly, not by anyone’s standards. When The Confederate General Rides North is published this August, it will arrive more than 20 years after Gable first started writing about Katherine McConnell, an utterly complex 11-year-old girl who, on occasion, imagines herself as the Gen. Robert E. Lee.

This narrator, Kat, is as passionate for Civil War history as a preteen girl living in Marietta during the late 1960s could possibly be. She covets the Confederate gray coats and hats, visits Kennesaw Mountain and the Cyclorama with awe, and memorizes dates and famous names, though the violent gravity of slavery and war eludes her. Her historical enthusiasm is as anxiety-inducing for the reader as it is for Kat’s mother, who bristles at the thought of “gruesome” war celebrations and the legacy of “idiot Southern white people.” Her father is less concerned, even supportive and happy that she’s interested in their family history.

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(Image courtesy Scribner)

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