A Separate Country is really a novel about Reconstruction, not the Civil War. In many ways, it's a follow-up to Robert Hicks's first novel, The Widow of the South.
Nevertheless, the book provides some insight into the psychology of the fighting men. By describing the inner life of John Bell Hood, the author writes about how it was necessary to forget those who died in previous battles. Harsh as it was, it served as the only way for the survivors to keep going. In addition, the psychology of generals is also described. After the Battle of Franklin, Hood wonders how his men could let themselves suffer so many casualties. It never occurs to him that he could have had any role in his men's disaster.
Hood's alleged remorse is where the fiction comes into play. Hicks portrays Hood as a man wracked by remorse over his role in that battle. Hood even calls himself a murderer. I did a bit of research and consulted with others online. There is little evidence that he felt such self-revulsion. There may have been some regret but there seemed to have been little mea culpa on his part. Well, it is a novel after all.
As a work of fiction, A Separate Country is very good. The characters are vivid and real. The portrayal of the killer Sebastien LeMerle is excellent. His crimes, though reprehensible, can be understood. You don't agree with them but you see why he did them. The prose is brilliant. Hicks's description of Hood's marriage is accurate and interesting. You feel that Hood and his wife Anne-Marie are truly in love despite the baggage that marriage can gather.
Though it is lightweight as a Civil War book, A Separate Country is worth reading for itself.
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