Thursday, January 2, 2014
Washington's Lady by Nancy Moser
What do we typically remember about George Washington, father of our country? His surveying days, the tales of his childhood honesty, the long, suffering winter along the Potomac, his call to be the first President? All are important details to learn about the man and most of us know them. If you've had a trip to Mount Vernon (as I did way back when a teenager), you also know of his love for his land and home, but probably don't remember any specific details about his family. Nancy Moser's recent historical fiction book Washington's Lady brings to life the forty year marriage of Martha Dandridge Custis to George Washington. Speculation that the young widow Martha's wealth and land holdings may have first attracted George, but years of loyalty and sacrifice tell another story.
While there may have been times of luxury, especially in their young years, and excitement as the independence fever grew, the harsh reality of sacrifice, separation, and war dominate more than a decade of their life. Add in the specter of death that seemed to haunt Martha's family, and I became a sympathetic admirer of Martha's. I believe Moser has realistically portrayed the private woman, who saw herself mainly as a wife and mother, but who realized her mothering duties included an extended family that eventually encompassed an army and a "baby" country. As you read, you will witness Martha's insecurities over her short stature in comparison to the slender beauty who had long held George's attention, her inability to discipline a headstrong and totally spoiled son, and her never ending fear that those closest to her will die. But you will also see her strength as she deals with each of these conflicts and more. The Martha Washington that Moser has portrayed the remarkable life of a remarkable woman married to a remarkable man. That their deepest goal was to sit under the "vine and fig tree" to enjoy each other's company and the Potomac River view is something too few of us know.
In the epilogue of the book is the following quotation:
It is said that without George Washington there would be no United States, but without Martha, there would no George Washington. In his eyes, she was truly the 'other self.'
If you are a history buff, may I recommend this fictional historical account of our first "first family." Moser's notes at the end of the book show just how skillfully a fiction writer weaves the
well researched historical facts into an entertaining and compelling read. This is my first book finish for 2014, and I hope all my selections for the upcoming year are as satisfying.
Martha as a young woman from Wikipedia