The Long Roll buries romance beneath history

The Vedette
The Vedette

The Long Roll is a long novel in search of a plot.

The story opens with the passage in 1860 of the Botetourt Resolutions declaring Virginia’s willingness to secede from the Union if that becomes necessary.

When war starts the following year, some of Botetourt County’s finest men serve under the command of Stonewall Jackson. Mary Johnson marches her readers with the Jackson troops three years and nearly 800 pages from first Manassas to the Wilderness campaign in 1864.

Keeping track of who’s who among dozens of characters is tricky, and flipping back through page-long paragraphs is not a good option.

the lovers embrace in illustration by Wyeth
The Lovers

An eccentric, Bible-thumping, lemon-sucking disciplinarian without a trace of personal magnetism, Jackson is not an ideal protagonist for a novel. The romantic subplot in which  the lovers meet fewer than a half-dozen times in the novel is equally exciting.  Before the story is half over, the invented elements collapse under the weight of history.

If Johnson had stuck to history, the book might not have been better, but it would have been more honest. As it stands, The Long Roll is a novel only the most loyal of Civil War buffs can really enjoy.

The Long Roll
by Mary Johnston
Illus. by N. C. Wyeth
Houghton Mifflin Co.
1911 bestseller #7
Project Gutenberg E-book  # 22066
©2011 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Linda G. Aragoni

I make big ideas simple for learners. In eight sentences, 34 words, I taught teens and adults to write competently. Now I'm writing guides to turn willing volunteers into great nursing home visitors.

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