Novelist Julia Oliver has been spending a lot of time in bookstores signing her new novel DEVOTION. It's about Winnie Davis and her deep ambivalence over the celebrity that surrounded her as the "Daughter of the Confederacy." It had to be difficult being a child of someone as controversial as Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy. Imagine, on top of that, being anointed by an adoring public as keeper of the flame for the Lost Cause.
Not long after Oliver hit the road to promote Devotion, another book about the Davis family women began showing up on store shelves: First Lady of the Confederacy by historian Joan E. Cashin. A biography, it focuses on Varina Davis, Winnie's mother. Here again the theme of ambivalence arises: over the war, celebrity, and the price of loyalty (or devotion, as Oliver puts it).
Praise for Julia Oliver's Devotion:
"A sharp, endearing account . . . Oliver's sure hand is evident on every page of this slim, lyrical novel"--Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"Recommended . . . Will appeal to those who like their historical fiction served up in the style of the day."--Library Journal
"This well-researched novel offers much detail of the era and profiles of historic personages that include Joseph Pulitzer."--Kirkus Reviews
"An extraordinary, compelling tour de force: wise, hard-nosed, and not the least bejasmined or fraught with Confederate or Victorian nostalgia."--First Draft
"An elegant, poetic, and deeply moving tribute to the Davis family, and especially to the long-neglected women of that tragic clan. Anyone who loves the story of the South owes her a gesture of thanks."--Howard Bahr, author of The Judas Field: A Novel of the Civil War
Beauvoir, the last home of Jefferson Davis, and a pivotal setting in Devotion, was badly damaged in Hurricane Katrina.
Much more information about the Davis family can be found at the Papers of Jefferson Davis project.
Top left: Jacket of Julia Oliver's novel Devotion
Bottom left: Portrait of Varina Davis, 1849
Right: Portrait of Winnie Davis on a postcard lauding her as the "Daughter of the Confederacy"