Confederate Lieutenant Anderson Blanks has grown weary of the War between the States. When a wounded soldier is heard, dying in the darkness, Andy takes a lantern and canteen in the hopes of easing the soldier’s pain. Andy is shocked to discover none other than Samuel Talley, his first love and a young man Andy’s father had chased from their plantation when the romantic relationship between the two boys came to light. It’s up to Andy to tend his lover’s wound and get Sam the help he needs before it’s too late…and before Andy’s compatriots discover Sam’s presence…
The opening of A Heart Divided is absolutely wonderful. Lieutenant Anderson Blanks is writing a letter to his sister and then shortly afterward moves through the camp of his Confederate regiment. To those pundits who say that you should start with action and ignore things like description, I say pooh. This is the sort of beginning to a book that I really like, and the sort of thing that grips me.
It really drips with atmosphere; a heavy, hot Virginian night. Insects sounding the night, men spooked for no good reason, and a man who doesn’t know if he’ll live through the night, let alone the week.
When he finds Sam, injured, and in a bad way, the atmosphere becomes even more tense and claustrophobic, which was very impressive. If I have any criticism at the stage it is that perhaps the reunited lovers were more concerned with kissing and talking than worried about Sam’s injury, but who knows how we would really act under those circumstances?
As someone who appreciates the touch of gritty reality in their reading material, the part regarding Sam’s injury pleased me, but those reader who don’t want grim realism in their books might want to skip that section.
I was slightly confused by the top of every page said “Wicked Comes the Beast” – I assumed that it was a chapter name, but now I see it’s a typographical error on behalf of Amber Quill. I hope that’s been fixed now.
I was a little concerned by Andy’s lenghty absence from his regiment – he was gone all night, which I’d say he could have got away with. But then he was missing at dawn, and the regiment moved to bury the dead on the battlefield, he would have had men under his command, he would have been missed, by noon. I was pleased when he was finally called on this — but it was almost a day later. I think I would have preferred if some reason had been given for his able to go off on his own for this protracted time, perhaps if he’d been officially on the sick roster or something.
Although I wasn’t convinced by Snyder’s All Shook Up, A Heart Divided is a much stronger book, showing the same skills of prose as did ASU, and the short story No Apologies, which I enjoyed a lot. It relies a lot on coincidence, but where would we be without them? Sometimes it got a little too romantic for my taste (considering the danger and the injury) with Sam sulking and pouting – and with kisses while walking with a badly injured leg, and phrases like “verdant eyes” and “green gaze” but all in all, it was engrossing and I really cared about these people and wanted them to make it. Snyder is unashamedly romantic, but when there’s good writing to back it up, it becomes more believable.
Well worth a read.