Friday, June 13, 2008

Washington's Lady



Moser, Nancy. 2008. Washington's Lady.

This is my third Nancy Moser novel. I've read her novel on Mozart's sister and her novel on Jane Austen. What can I say? It's a hard task to capture almost an entire life within the pages of a novel. Spanning over forty years, the novel follows the life of Martha Dandridge Custis from the age of twenty-five to her death. The novel opens in fact with her attending the funeral of her first husband, Daniel Custis. She had two surviving children--Jacky and Patsy--from that marriage. In the next few chapters, we see her courtship with the young George Washington. What follows next is their marriage naturally. George didn't always have an easy time being a stepfather. His stepson, Jack, didn't want to obey anybody--mother, stepfather, or tutors or teachers. So on the one hand, the novel is about the family life, the personal life of these famous Americans. On the other hand, it is the story of America's fight for independence from British rule. Quite an undertaking, isn't it?

A novel can span a wide array of time. It can span a day, a week, a month, a year. But for a novel to span over forty years in the life of a family, in the life of a country, requires a bit of determination or perseverance on the part of the reader. Not to be mean. Maybe this reflects more on me than on Moser, but I found parts of it to be sluggish. Sure I was interested in some of the happenings. But it was really more of this is this and that is that and then this happens and then that, etc. It was just boring. That sounds so harsh.

The novel is painstakingly well-researched. It's very thorough. There are quite  a bit of notes in the background that would help the reader distinguish fact from fiction. So there are plenty of positive things to say about the novel. The more of a history lover you are, the more forgiving you may be of its rather slow pace.

I liked it, but I didn't love it.

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