Fiction: from out of the past

vVarina” by Charles Frazier’s (“Cold Mountain”) is based on the life of Varina Davis, wife of Confederate President.   Told in flashbacks, it recounts her marriage as a teen to an older widower, his alarming involvement in the secessionist  movement, and her impoverishment after the war, which compelled her to launch a career as a journalist in New York. Varina, as presented by Frazier, cuts a fascinating figure. She is well-educated and shows a surprisingly independence of mind.  In “The Winter Station”  by Jody Shields, a doctor in Manchuria is baffled by a deadly disease that is spreading rapidly through his community.   Based on real events, her portrait of Doctor von Budberg is  “affecting and timely in its exploration of conflicts between cultures and classes, ambition and mortality, science and politics” (Publishers Weekly).  “Chicago” by David Mamet uses the prohibition ear as a backdrop for a drama about a reporter seeking revenge for a gangland murder.   Playwright Mamet’s “patented talent with dialogue” is on full display.

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