Unmentionables: A Novel

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Unmentionables reference personal undergarments worn in the Civil War era, and yet also describes the unmentionable quality of relationships in David Greene’s novel, an apt title. In this 2010 bronze medal winner for Gay/Lesbian fiction, Greene creates a diverse family of characters entwined and enthralled with each other’s affection, concern, love, and hatreds. Two families, their plantations, and slaves are the setting for romance, both the expected and the forbidden unmentionables. Greene explores the complex emotional attachments that develop between two people and even, between a man and dog in this book of historical fiction. After an initial onslaught of characters, the pacing settles, giving the reader time to adjust as the supporting storylines develop.

Dorothy Holland is approaching the age when her parents contemplate the best match for her. She confides her disgruntlement with both matchmaking and politics of the looming war with the North to the slave Ella, her beloved friend. William Askew is taken quite aback with Dorothy, a woman who speaks her mind. Caught up in war fever, he makes a tragic mistake that will bring unexpected consequences. William’s half-brother, Cato, fruit of his father’s long-ago rape of a slave girl in the household, finds himself the object of attention by an itinerate painter commissioned by Augustus, William’s father. Jimmy, Ella’s brother, discovers hidden feelings in a chance meeting with Cato. The love that transcends all though is that of Venus, the dog that brings joy to forlorn Sammy, sold at five years to traders after his mother’s death, purchased by Dorothy’s father, and brought into the Holland household, though unwanted, by Dorothy’s mother.

There is significant internal dialogue with each character throughout the book and quite possibly, the best depiction of a dog’s point of view that I’ve ever read. Greene is adroit with building tension along each arc of the story. Several times, he surprises with unexpected developments. Unmentionables is an intriguing read.

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Star Count 4/5
Format Trade
Page Count 555 pages
Publisher CreateSpace
Publish Date 22-Nov-2011
ISBN 9781453721353
Bookshop.org Buy this Book
Issue October 2013
Category Historical Fiction


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