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Wrong War by
to spy for the Confederacy, Jean-Pierre
Mercier, a bilingual McGill student,
survives the Battle of Baltimore to join the
hundreds of correspondents who have flocked
to Washington to report on the forthcoming
War Between the States.
balloon ride brings him to Bull Run.
Appalled by the carnage among the green
troops on both sides, he follows a
Confederate deserter into the hills of
Kentucky where he meets the young Protestant
girl who will later become his wife.
he resumes his mission, spying on the
disposition of the Union troops at Mill Run
and Shiloh. Assigned to report on
holes in the Union Naval Blockade, he
travels down the Mississippi to New Orleans
and then across the Southern States by train
through Mobile, Macon, Savannah, and
at Chancellorsville, he is sent to the
Federal prison at Point Lookout. Once
he is free, he heads for home, riding to New
York with a trainload of draft protestors.
man who returns to Montreal, hardened by
travel, war, and the constant need to live
by his wits, is far different from the boy
here to read an extract from The
Rating : parental guidance
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from an amazon review:
I don't normally care for war stories but have always been interested in the
civil war and its aftermath. This novel written from the viewpoint of a French
Canadian takes a surprising turn. There are the usual bloody (and authentic)
battle scenes that I don't care for, but the protagonist of this novel,
Jean-Paul Mercier, does not appear to care for them either. Following the battle
of Bull Run or Manassas (depending one's point of view), he runs away in the
company of a rebel deserter. It was this part of the novel I found most
interesting. The two live off the land, steal clothes, horses, and row boats as
they make their way from Virginia into the mountains of Tennessee. There among
the hillbillies, Jean-Paul meets the young girl he will later marry, the pair
seemingly as different from each other as two people can possible be. How they
communicate, and how the hero is able to communicate with the newspapers for
whom he writes is part of the charm of the novel.
Battle scenes alternate with accounts of the protagonist's travels, thankfully,
and it is these glimpses into nineteenth century life in the southern states
that I found the most interesting. Jean-Paul would have made a worthy, if
imaginary, traveling companion for Paul Theroux had the latter been able to ride
the rail lines of that period. I also thought I recognized something of the con
men described by Twain and Melville in the hero's description of his journey
down the Mississippi.
Occasionally, phrases in French appear in the descriptions, but their meaning
can usually be guessed at if a French-English dictionary is not at hand.