NATCHEZ by Pamela Jekel


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Another of the author's historical dynasty novels (Deepwater, 1994, etc.), again with spikelets of real events, bits of natural history, and die-cast characters. Jekel's latest features a plantation family in the title area from 1775-1885. A prologue highlights a 1729 French settler wed to a woman of the Natchez Indians who states the novel's theme: ""The land belongs to the woman."" Founder of the dynasty is Josiah Fleming from Connecticut--a man who'll lose not only his family of wife and three children on the way west, as well as his original land claim, but also his faith. Josiah eventually marries a calm, strong widow, becomes one of the more successful planters, and regains his faith in Providence. But the couple's daughter Anne is the mean, beautiful Scarlett of the family; she's married briefly to a riverboat gambler, who frankly didn't give a damn and split, leaving wife and pretty Arden. Later, Arden marries nice Martin (who's opposed to the threatened civil war), then loses (in the war) a son and a son-in-law--the one married to her daughter Felicity. At the close, it's Felicity who is rescued from a flood, along with her pregnant daughter, brother, and son-in-law, by ""outsider"" John Duncan--with an implausible middle-aged romance ensuing. In what's predictably a saga of fire, flood, and casualty lists, the family's women are all of a wholesome piece (except for cruel Anne), and the slaves generally imbecilic. (Says old Portia, Arden's lifelong maid: ""What I need wid freedom? I gots fambly."") Also roaming around river waters and nearby land are various fauna, like Daspy the armadillo, Ursus the bear, a fox, a snake, etc., mimicking the traumas of human brethren. A journeyman saga.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1995
Page count: 482pp
Publisher: Kensington