Review: The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers

Title: The Second Mrs Hockaday
Author: Susan Rivers
Pages: 272
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Free ARC from Algonquin

Rating: A

Note: As stated under the Source (above), I received this book for free from Algonquin via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review (and trust me, honest is always what you’ll get).

Summary: Set in the South during the Civil War, this novel explores the complexities and horrors of one of the most tumultuous times in US History. Placidia Hockaday marries a soldier she has just met, and is thrust into the responsibilities of taking care of her baby stepson and her new home while her husband of only a few days is called back to the war. When her husband returns, he finds that she has given birth to a baby that cannot be his, and that the child has died in unknown circumstances. When she refuses to tell him (or anyone) the truth of the situation, he has her charged. Little does he know what she has been through in his absence, what she has learned about life and love, about herself, about the society in which they have been living and the vagaries of man in wartime, or what she has suffered while struggling to build a home and a future for them.

Review: The beauty of novels written in the form of letters (epistolary, I believe it is called) is they are so very personal. The depth of the relationship between the letter writer and the intended receiver dictates how much information is revealed, how much emotion is conveyed, and it goes a long way in giving the reader insight into each individual character. And somehow it feels so much more honest, genuine, and heartfelt.

The other benefit of this approach in this particular book is the ability to unravel details of the story in small pieces, from multiple perspectives, creating a steady thread of suspense about the mystery at hand. It’s a well-crafted patchwork that brings the pieces of the story together beautifully. Some might find it disorienting or confusing at times, but for me it was a part of the joy of reading the book. It jarred me a little, but without creating any sense of disconnection.

While I love historical fiction, the Civil War era is not one I’ve read much about, and it took me awhile to get comfortable with the dialects of that period. However, within a few chapters, I had made the adjustment, and I found myself lost in the story. I had just finished another book and had some time left before bed and thought I’d read a chapter or two. Instead, I stayed up late, reading half of it in one sitting, and sadly put it aside to finish the next day.

This is a quick read that I thoroughly enjoyed. It heightened my interest in a period of history I’ve not read much about, and did such a wonderful job of highlighting all the complexities of that time. I’d absolutely recommend it.

2 Replies to “Review: The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers”

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