Letters from Vinnie

by Maureen Stack Sappéy | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: 159078538X Global Overview for this book
Registered by wingGoryDetailswing of Nashua, New Hampshire USA on 7/15/2018
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Journal Entry 1 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Sunday, July 15, 2018
I got this softcover at the by-the-pound sale room of a local Goodwill thrift shop. It's a lightly-fictionalized look at the life of sculptor Vinnie Ream, who was nominated by Congress to produce a life-size marble statue of Abraham Lincoln after his assassination. I hadn't heard of her before, and was fascinated by the details of her life, which unfold here in the form of letters from her to a fictional friend, Regina. The letters begin when Vinnie's 13, and continue through 1869, when her design for the Lincoln sculpture has been approved and she's on her way to Europe to find the marble and produce the finished work.

Her story covers major political upheavals, including the Civil War, which fractured her family; she and her parents sided with the Union, while her brother fought for the Confederacy. The author of the novel expands real-life friendships between Vinnie and two men of Cherokee descent, cousins; it seems she did correspond with them for years, but whether there were hints of actual romantic interest on either side I don't know. (As depicted here, she's torn between the more outgoing man despite his occasional brooding and anger, and the older but more gentle and supportive poet; in the end she rejects both. I was pleased to see her focus on her work even amid the turmoil!)

The book also places her at the center of the controversy over the impeachment trial of president Andrew Johnson, with scenes showing the extremely polarized Senate and some truly horrifying pressure and threats - indeed, that whole subplot sounded a bit too much like today's news in many ways. Even Vinnie's personal life became fraught with controversy, as jealous or bitter people wrote articles condemning her private life and suggesting she'd gained her commission by the use of "womanly wiles" rather than merit. I guess muckraking has always been with us, but it sounded a lot like modern Twitter backlash...

It's clear that the author put a lot of effort into the historical background, and I think she took a fairly light hand with the fictional aspects; the book reads more like a memoir, and I'm very glad to have learned about this talented woman.

Released 7 mos ago (12/7/2018 UTC) at Little Free Library, Oscar Foss Memorial Library in Barnstead, New Hampshire USA


I left this book in the colorful Little Free Library outside the town's library on this bright, chilly day; hope someone enjoys it!

[See other recent releases in NH here.]

*** Released for the 2018 What's In A Name release challenge. ***

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