In 1844, Missouri belle Julia Dent met dazzling horseman Lieutenant Ulysses S Grant. Four years passed before their parents permitted them to wed, and the groom’s abolitionist family refused to attend the ceremony.
Since childhood, Julia owned as a slave another Julia, known as Jule. Jule guarded her mistress’s closely held twin secrets: She had perilously poor vision but was gifted with prophetic sight. So it was that Jule became Julia’s eyes to the world.
And what a world it was, marked by gathering clouds of war. The Grants vowed never to be separated, but as Ulysses rose through the ranks—becoming general in chief of the Union Army—so did the stakes of their pact. During the war, Julia would travel, often in the company of Jule and the four Grant children, facing unreliable transportation and certain danger to be at her husband’s side.
Yet Julia and Jule saw two different wars. While Julia spoke out for women—Union and Confederate—she continued to hold Jule as a slave behind Union lines. Upon the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, Jule claimed her freedom and rose to prominence as a businesswoman in her own right, taking the honorary title Madame. The two women’s paths continued to cross throughout the Grants’ White House years in Washington, DC, and later in New York City, the site of Grant’s Tomb.
Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule is the first novel to chronicle this singular relationship, bound by sight and shadow.
Kindle Edition, 402 pages
Published March 3rd 2015 by Dutton
ARC - netgalley
*** (I liked it)
Jennifer Chiaverini's books are like a history lesson for me. Being Canadian I know names in US history and a little about the person, but not a lot of detail. Though the title is Mrs. Grand and Madame Jule I found this to be more a story about the relationship between Ulysses S. Grant and Julia his wife. Jules was mentioned throughout the book and her story line was interesting but I felt it was more a background story, especially towards the end of the book, I did like the ending Jules got in this book.
Moving through many years in the life of the Grants, from courtship, marriage, children, the Civil War and more, this book moved at a steady pace. There was never a time where I felt bored but rather eager to learn more about the Grant's. It was more a story of their relationship rather then of the presidency, though of course that was played out nicely here. The author relied on real historical documents and events and she knowledge and research is evident. Jennifer Chiaverini is an author that I read a fair amount of, and she didn't disappoint here.