Quite often, we hear that someone or some idea is on the "right side of history." When I began talking about my project, Pavane for Miss Marcher, one of my fellow writers said, "Just make sure you stay on the 'right side of history'."
I knew exactly what she meant and the element of threat was blatant. Also obvious was the attempt to censor. Pavane for Miss Marcher is set in post-American Civil War Maine. I had read widely from all sides and aspects of this era in the history of the United States.
Although, like many Americans, I was very well aware of the heated emotions and often disputed facts of this period, I was determined to write the story I felt most clearly expressed my own ambiguous and conflicted understanding of our shared history.
The main character is a young woman, Cathryn Marcher, who experiences the trauma and horror of the war while serving in a Union Army hospital in Boston. During her service, she becomes involved with an officer who takes advantage of her youth, loneliness and vulnerability. Their affair ends when he returns to his unit and the war comes to an end.
Many years before, Cathryn had fallen in love with a young man from her town. Her service as a nurse was her contribution to the war, in hope that somehow Rupert Smith was being cared for by a good nurse wherever he was.
Rupert has spent the last year of the war in a prison camp. His courage and honor win him the respect of not only his fellow prisoners but also several of the Confederate soldiers who are assigned to guard the Union prisoners. When the war is declared to be at an end, Rupert is in no condition to return to his small town Maine home. The men from both sides of the conflict have formed a close bond that takes them West.
The encounter with the adamant writer actually sharpened my intention to write a story based on the realities of human interaction and the facts rather than take up camp on any side, right or wrong. In history, there is only one side: the truth with all its convolutions and contradictions.
This story has a happy ending which sometimes happens in life, despite the horror of war and the evil that surrounds us. When confronted by the demand that I "stay on the right side," I determined that I would: to write honestly about what I know.
Thursday, June 28, 2018
Sides of History
Labels: American Civil War, Leigh Verrill-Rhys, Maine, Pavane for Miss Marcher, prisoner of war, writing about history
Leigh is the author of Wait a Lonely Lifetime, Salsa Dancing with Pterodactyls, the serial novel by installment, Nights Before and Pavane for Miss Marcher, both set in her native Maine. Leigh also writes Welsh Medieval Romance under the pen name, Lily Dewaruile.