Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyAt the urging of her husband, a Confederate Army soldier, McDonald began keeping a diary of life on the home front in Winchester, a town in northwestern Virginia. As Gwin, a professor of English at the University of New Mexico, points out in her thorough but academic introduction, this diary is a piece of domestic history, about the defense of family and household, unlike journals such as that of Mary Chestnut, which describe the public experience of the war. McDonald's daily entries can wax tedious to those who aren't buffs, but she writes with vigorous language and biblical cadences: ``I had a heart for sorrow, and it ached with a ceaseless pang for the country as well as for my own griefs.'' Her story spans numerous experiences: fighting to keep her house from being occupied by the invading Yankees; the death of her child; using a homemade, fast-burning ``Confederate candle'' for light; finding her husband's corpse. McDonald rewrote a lost portion of the diary after the war, also added recollections of the years before and after the war, and copied the journal eight times for her children. Photos not seen by PW. (June)
Library Journal - Library JournalMcDonald kept a diary at the request of her husband, who wanted a reckoning of his family's life while he was off fighting. There was plenty to relate, since they lived in Winchester, Virginia, which was constantly occupied by troops. Covering both public and private activities, McDonald offers a refreshingly feminine perspective on an age heretofore described primarily by men. After she lost part of the diary while moving, she went back and reconstructed events, aided by an astonishing memory, then copied the entire volume by hand for each of her eight surviving children, so they would have a record of their heritage. This intriguing account of daily life during the chaos of the Civil War is recommended for all libraries on the basis of its unique historical content.-- Belinda J. Pugh, Kings Bay Base Lib., Ga.
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