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Sweet Glory by Lisa Potocar
Years ago, while reading about the American Civil War, I came across an item that I found very interesting even for that heartbreaking, fascinating time. I retired soldier, living on a government pension and in a home for retired veterans, had been discovered to be a woman rather than a man. This soldier had fought during the war, had suffered all the privations that were experienced by soldiers in that time, and had been mustered out at the end with an honorable discharge.
Naturally, the authorities were horrified and canceled the soldier’s pension. A woman? She was not a real soldier – she was an impostor! I was not surprised to read of this. It was the late 1800’s when ‘women’s work’ was officially circumscribed and severely limited, regardless of what women of that era had to do to survive. I was thrilled to read that the ‘disgraced’ soldier’s comrades rose up and came to her defense She WAS a soldier, they said. She fought alongside them, suffered all they suffered, and had her share in securing their triumphs. A woman? Well, they hadn’t known. One man said that that certainly explained the soldier’s modesty on the subject of going to the ‘sinks’ -a word for latrine. The pension was reinstated, as was her war credit.
This was not an isolated incident. Something like this happened more than once. And not just with women serving as soldiers. Anyone with imagination starts wondering Who would do this? How? What hindrances would they face? What temptations? And how would they feel.
Sweet Glory tells the story of one of these soldiers.
Jana Brady, from upstate New York, is an accomplished horsewoman, experienced with treating the ailments of humans and animals alike. Sweet Glory follows her experiences s she joins a Cavalry unit – will she be able to get away and sign up in time? – learns about soldiering, becomes ‘one of the boys’ and finds a way, when it appears that her service must be at an end, to continue to serve.
I don’t need to outline the plot of Sweet Glory. The narrative draws you in, and you follow it. I don’t mind saying that there is a twist toward the end that startled me and made me think, ‘How on earth will she get out of this?’ You’ll have to read Sweet Glory to find out what I mean.
Lisa Potocar writes well, catching conversations in an authentic voice from that mid-Victorian era. Her characters have human emotions and conflicts – one scene shows the two sides in a post-battle truce caring for the wounded. It contains a very touching scene that had me choked up. A description of a cavalry clash, with fighting in a ditch, was deftly handled, the emotions of the combatants believable and realistic.
Sweet Glory is not a long book. It tells the story of Jana’s service with the army – how it came about, how it progressed, and how it ended – and what it did to her. Jana is a very ‘together’ young woman of intelligence and resolution. The story follows her timeline, and while it could have paused to dawdle over details of day to day existence, that was not necessary to the intent of the novel, which shows how a woman can engage in a war and emerge from it with her feminine abilities and characteristics intact and deepened by the experience. Jana uses her abilities and experience to cope ably with all that is involved in war.
Physically speaking, Sweet Glory is a satisfying book. And it is pretty. The cover is beautifully conceived – note the top of the cover with a view of a lady’s slippered foot descending a step – and below it a scene from a battle – the woman stepping into war. The typeface used is reminiscent of that you might find in a novel of that period.
I have no hesitation recommending this book for just about any age. I would have loved it if I had encountered it in when I was in elementary school. I graduated from college a long time ago and I enjoyed it. YA readers would enjoy it, too. There is a love story in it, but I don’t classify this as a romance novel, though Jana’s emotions are well handled. This is a reread, and I will be loaning it to my niece, aged fourteen, when I see her next.
I was given a copy of Sweet Glory by the author as a thank you for some assistance with electronic media – blogs, postings and the like. It was a gift. I was not asked to review it, nor was it implied that I was expected to. I read it because the subject interested me, and I am writing this review to reflect my impressions.
This is, for me, one that I will reread. Sweet Glory has won awards. They were well-deserved. Well done, Ms. Potocar.