ABOUT THE BOOK:
In 1844, Missouri belle Julia Dent met dazzling horseman Lieutenant Ulysses S Grant. Four years passed before their parents permitted them to wed, and the groom’s abolitionist family refused to attend the ceremony.
Since childhood, Julia owned as a slave another Julia, known as Jule. Jule guarded her mistress’s closely held twin secrets: She had perilously poor vision but was gifted with prophetic sight. So it was that Jule became Julia’s eyes to the world.
And what a world it was, marked by gathering clouds of war. The Grants vowed never to be separated, but as Ulysses rose through the ranks—becoming general in chief of the Union Army—so did the stakes of their pact. During the war, Julia would travel, often in the company of Jule and the four Grant children, facing unreliable transportation and certain danger to be at her husband’s side.
Yet Julia and Jule saw two different wars. While Julia spoke out for women—Union and Confederate—she continued to hold Jule as a slave behind Union lines. Upon the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, Jule claimed her freedom and rose to prominence as a businesswoman in her own right, taking the honorary title Madame. The two women’s paths continued to cross throughout the Grants’ White House years in Washington, DC, and later in New York City, the site of Grant’s Tomb.
Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule is the first novel to chronicle this singular relationship, bound by sight and shadow.
I’ve read a few books set during the Civil War era but never from the perspective of the wife of a great general and President. Also, at times, the story is told from the viewpoint of her slave, Jule. Julia Grant is someone I knew nothing about before reading the book, though of course, I had heard of her husband, Ulysses S. Grant. I found her to be an engaging character and enjoyed reading the parts of the books that told her story.
It was Jule, however, that I wanted to read the most about. Unfortunately, Julia and her husband are the forefront of the story, and while I did like their story, it seemed to repeat and many of the same issues were brought up over and over and I started to skim over a lot of their conversations. Jule struck me as a strong individual. Although not much is known of the real Jule other than what we can find in Mrs. Grant’s writings, the author did a wonderful job with bringing her to life. I guess I did think the title was a bit deceiving as Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule were apart more than together.
There was a lot of Civil War detail in the book. I have always been fascinated with it – even though I’m Canadian – but it’s not something you’re into, I can see you being bored with those parts. Keep going, though. The ending is great and watching the characters develop was a pleasure. Jennifer Chiaverini is a great author. I read and reviewed her last book, Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker and really loved it, too.
*I received an ebook copy from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.*