My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I hardly know what to say about this book. It is excellent!
We are finishing up this book as a read-aloud for school-time. Irene Hunt based the book on accounts from her grandfather growing up as a young boy (nine years old) at the start of the Civil War in Illinois.
“There are many questions I would have liked to ask my grandfather as I wrote “Across Five Aprils”. For example, I was unable to name the exact date of the story’s opening because I could not determine how long it would have taken for news of the firing on Fort Sumter to reach the farm in southern Illinois. Again, I was not sure just how bread was baked in the ashes of the fireplace; I only knew that as Grandfather remembered it, that bread was the “sweetest” he ever tasted.”
The characters are so well-done! The situations that occur in the novel are ones that just couldn’t be made up. Jethro Creighton’s dilemma, that by mid-war, for an eleven-year old (who was already taking the place of his father on the hard work of the farm), was one that men three times his age could not find an easy solution to. His agonizing over what choice to make, is a problem that readers will engage with and in turn question what they themselves would have done.
There are problems with neighbors, problems with tolerance and attitudes toward Southern sympathisers, problems with family relationships, hardship, politics and resentment against the Northern generals and mismanagement of battles, the losses of the war; all elements that make “Across Five Aprils” a riveting read.
Jethro’s family is divided in their loyalties, as so many families were in those times. The author does a superb job of writing about the heartache and turmoil of this period in our nation’s history:
“I’m leavin’ Jeth; it ain’t that I want to, but it’s that I must. The day is comin’ when I’ve got to fight, and I won’t fight fer arroagance and big money aginst the southern farmer. I won’t do it. You tell Pa that. Tell him, too, that I’m takin’ my brown mare – she’s mine, and I hev the right. Still, it will leave him short so you tell him that I’m leavin’ money I made at the sawmill and at corn shuckin’s; it’s inside the cover of his Bible. You tell him to take it and buy another horse.”
This is not the first time I’ve read this book but I had forgotten some of the parts of the story and this reading is just as fresh and new as before. Don’t miss this one. Five stars!