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Enemy Women: A Novel Hardcover – Import, 5 February 2002
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Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
- Publisher : William Morrow (5 February 2002)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 336 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0066214440
- ISBN-13 : 978-0066214443
- Item Weight : 680 g
- Dimensions : 15.56 x 2.77 x 23.5 cm
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The prose is magnificent: muscular, vivid, poetic, very American. Idiosyncratically, there are no quotation marks around dialogue, which is irritating at first; but one soon gets used to it.
Union troops - both regular army and a lawless and brutal militia - are more or less in control of Missouri, though resisted by Confederate guerillas. The central figure of the book is Adair Colley, aged eighteen when the militia took away her father, a local judge, as a suspect, stole their horses and plundered and wrecked her house. Adair and her two younger sisters set out on a 120 mile walk to the local Union headquarters to find out where their father had been taken. When they got there, Adair was arrested, accused of giving information to Confederates, and sent to a grim women's prison in St. Louis. Major William Neumann, who interrogates her, says she can be free if she writes an account naming the people to whom she is said to have given information. Instead she writes a poetic account of her life, and then a further account of a Confederate plot which is quite obviously a spoof. The major is charmed by these; he has already been impressed by this feisty and fearless young woman.
He falls in love with her and she with him. Having found the task of interrogating women distasteful, he asked to be transferred to fighting units (and there will be grisly accounts of what he experiences at the front); and before he goes, he helps Adair to escape from the prison.
Wracked with consumption, she makes her way back towards her home. In one place (the coincidence is hard to believe) she is reunited with her favourite horse, and, even harder to believe, even finds a horse that had belonged to her sister. Afoot or on horseback, it is a long and circuitous route, as she has to avoid roads where she might meet soldiers of either side; and there are many pages of descriptions of the wild terrain through which she travels - many days without seeing a soul, punctuated at times by friendly or by dangerous encounters. One marvels at Adair's courage and endurance, even if I found the account of this odyssey a little too long. Her journey ends (but does not end) and the Civil War has just ended also. Tough-minded Paulette Jiles does not give us, after such traumas, even a relatively happy ending.