by Gwen Bristow
Series: Plantation Trilogy #1
Genres: Historical Fiction
Not long before the American Revolution, Judith Sheramy, a Puritan girl from New England, rode a flatboat down the Mississippi River with her family. On the river she met an adventurer, Philip Larne -- cavalier and slave smuggler. The story of Judith and Philip is one of struggle - the passionate struggle of their stormy marriage, their struggle from jungle cabin to plantation mansion, and the struggle or revolution. Two abiding passions held them together - their love and their dream of an empire in the Louisiana jungle. When their triumph came it was bitter, menaced always by the hatred of both whites and blacks.
Deep Summer is the first novel in the Plantation Trilogy originally published in 1946 and thanks to Open Road Media it is now available digitally. It takes us into the lives of Judith Sheramy who along with her family traveled down the Mississippi River from New England to begin life anew in Louisiana. Along the way they encounter Philip Larne, a charismatic slave smuggler who enchants young Judith and encourages her to come build an empire with him.
• Bristow brings the Mississippi and Louisiana to life in panoramic view and shares with us the obstacles these pioneers faced. Not only did she bring their immediate world to life, but shared the political climate of the United States, racism and the mixing of cultural beliefs and religion.
• Through her characters particularly young Judith; Bristow took us into the overgrown jungles and let us experience the hardships and joys of cultivating a savage land. Through her writings I could see their temporary homestead and feel Judith’s struggles with the heat, bugs and language barriers.
• The story is very reflective of the period, and we see the effects of government ownership and the impact of the Louisiana Purchase.
• The birth of Judith’s first son will forever be etched in my mind *shivers* In that one scene Bristow brought the brutal reality of this rural land to life and it’s a passage that will stay with me.
• We experience Judith and Philip’s marriage from the early days of poverty to their final years. We share their successes, failures, and betrayals. Their’s was a fascinating and realistic marriage.
• We also get the story of Caleb, Judith’s brother. His wife Dolores was a colorful character, filled with spit and fire. To me she often stole the show.
• The tale is brimming with interesting details from Louisianan history to keeping bed bugs away. I loved all of the attention to detail from slave crafted furniture to how they prepared food.
• Deep Summer was written in 1946. While the historical aspects were fascinating, the tale is written by a white woman and is a true reflection of the period. You need to keep this in mind, as it is easy to be offended by how slaves were treated. The language, slang and racial tones reflect the period and have a biased slant.
• I did not always like the characters. These characters while realistically portrayed often-displayed behavior that rubbed me the wrong way. Disregarding the period, they often behaved childishly; there was miscommunication, murder, betrayal and hard lessons to be learned.
If you are looking for a richly detailed look at plantation life in the Deep South, then this tale is sure to captivate you. While I did not love the characters, Bristow brought the story to life and her talent is evident. The Handsome Road the second book set during the Civil War was written in 1958. I for one am very excited to see these older novels republished in digital format for a new audience.
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