Drawing on her own experiences as a southern aristocrat during wartime, A Family Secret is writer and social critic Eliza Frances Andrews s fictionalized retelling of the end of her long-cherished way of life. A best seller in both the North and South upon its original publication in 1876, the novel focuses on the plight of upper-class southern women unprepared for the challenges of post Civil War life, women Andrews described in her own diary as girls educated only for show. At its core a love story, A Family Secret revolves around the adventures of Virginia-born Audley Malvern, descendent of one of the first families of the Old Dominion, and Ruth Harfleur, long-lost heir to a plantation fortune. Though Andrews pointedly claimed that the novel was not an attempt to doctor public morals, her characters both lament the passing of a treasured way of life and decry the brutality of war that smothered the traits of decency and kindness.The novel draws significantly on Andrews s wartime memories. The scene of a visit to the prisoner-of-war camp at Andersonville was based on stories she had heard from visiting soldiers. The wartime railroad train and the interaction between Confederate officers and the backwoods farmer-soldiers on whose shoulders the burden of war squarely rested have their origins in observations recorded in Andrews s journals. A valuable portrait of the attitudes of class and racial division in the Civil War South, A Family Secret depicts the myths on which antebellum social structure rested and hints at the changes to come in the region s racial and gender roles and expectations."
Eliza Frances Andrews (1840 1931), an acclaimed author whose novels were best sellers during her lifetime, was also a journalist, teacher, and world-renowned botanist. S. Kittrell Rushing is Frank McDonald Professor and head of the Communication Department at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He is the editor of Eliza Frances Andrews s Journal of a Georgia Woman, 1870 1872. Rushing is coeditor of The Civil War and the Press (2000)."
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