Sunday, 6 April 2014

New Femnista & Book review: I shall be near to you

Earlier this week, the new issue of Femnista came out. The theme this time is A Nation at War, with articles mainly about the Civil War and some other war-related stories. For this issue, I wrote an article about the women who fought in the Civil War disguised as men, inspired by a wonderful book I recently read: I shall be near to you by Erin Lindsay McCabe.

Happy reading and also: check out the topics of the upcoming Femnista issues here and think about if you might want to contribute something. Femnista is always looking for new authors!


Rosetta Wakefield has just been married to her sweetheart Jeremiah for two short weeks when he sets of to fight in the Civil War. Alone in their small new house, Rosetta doesn't know how to fill her days or how to deal with the stifling pressure of her parents-in-law. When missing Jeremiah becomes more than she can bear, Rosetta takes a drastic decision: she cuts of her hair, puts on men's clothing and leaves in search of her husband, to fight beside him. When she arrives at his army camp, getting taken on as a soldier isn't the problem. The problems start with persuading Jeremiah and their fellow villagers she can stay and she can drill and fight just as well as any one of them.

Erin Lindsay McCabe has chosen a fascinating subject for her debut novel. Women fighting as men in the Civil War is a subject that will surely appeal to many people's imagination. Because: why did they take such a drastic decision? And how did they keep up with their disguise? Mrs. McCabe tries to answer all these question through the story of Rosetta.

For this, she uses a first-person narrative and though many people are wary of this literary form, I think it was the right choice for this story. The narrative makes this novel raw and real and brings the characters really close to the reader. Rosetta is very strong and courageous, but we also learn of her fears and insecurities and the description of Rosetta's first battle is tense and heart-breaking.

By voicing the story through Rosetta, I shall be near to you stays 'small' in a way, not dealing with the greater War raging on, but with the everyday live of the soldiers. Despite this, I would still call this an 'epic' story, because it shows all the great deeds of history ultimately depend on ordinary human beings. In the same vein, Rosetta and Jeremiah are not like the heroes and heroines of many an romantic story. Their love is not rosy and full of quickening heartbeats and flowery descriptions. Their love consists of staying together, no matter the circumstances, no matter the danger. And again, isn't this epic?

I shall be near to you may not be everyone's cup-of-tea. Mrs. McCabe has basically written a 'first-person narrative' and this includes descriptions of the harshness of a soldier's life. But for every lover of a good historical story I would recommend this novel, in my opinion, historical fiction doesn't get more realistic than this.


  1. Sounds like a cool book!

    And... I've just joined the ranks of Femnista authors. :-o Working on my contribution for the next issue!

    1. And now that I've read your article too, I can add that I liked it a lot! Even though I took a whole semester-long class in college about the Civil War, it seems like I'm always learning new things. I knew there were a few women who served in the army, disguised as men, but not that there were hundreds! Wow! That's amazing.

    2. That is great, Hamlette! Charity will be really pleased. I was actually thinking about you when I posted this when I was in my head going through people who might be reading it and might be interested to contribute.

    3. Hehe, I would never have known about this 'phenomenon' if not for reading this book (Although Lynn Austin also spoke of a woman disguised as a man in a Civil War battle in one of her books. But then I didn't know if she just 'made-it-up' or if it was fictional. In 'I shall be near to you' there was a whole historical background at the end)

    4. Right: made-it-up and fictional are the same, I meant made-it-up or historical ofcourse!

    5. Haha! You made me giggle :-) Cuz I totally didn't glitch over "made-it-up or fictional" at all, and then i read your second post and went, "Hang on..." :-D

    6. Hihi! Meant to ask by the way: what subject are you going to write about for the next Femnista?

  2. Yay for a new Femnista issue! Love this fun publication and I certainly hope Charity can fill her spots. :)

  3. How interesting! Your article, Femnista, and this book all sound fascinating! Always more to read--I love it!