Thursday, July 27, 2017

Whirligig: Keeping the Promise by Richard Buxton - #review

The first novel from multi-award winning short-story writer Richard Buxton, Whirligig is at once an outsider’s odyssey through the battle for Tennessee, a touching story of impossible love, and a portrait of America at war with itself. Self-interest and conflict, betrayal and passion, all fuse into a fateful climax.

Shire leaves his home and his life in Victorian England for the sake of a childhood promise, a promise that will pull him into the bleeding heart of the American Civil War and through the bloody battlefields of the West, where he will discover a second home for his loyalty.

Clara believes she has escaped from a predictable future of obligation and privilege, but her new life in the Appalachian Hills of Tennessee is decaying around her. In the mansion of Comrie, long hidden secrets are being slowly exhumed by a war that comes ever closer.




The 1860s in the US.  Not the best time, perhaps, to immigrate to Tennessee, but Clara's marriage is meant to cement together the relationship between two families who have business dealings with each other.  (Hmmm...maybe that's why my mother was never thrilled with my choice of husband. LOL).

There is a young man who basically grew up with Clara, but who was from a lower social rank, Shire, who follows her to America, hoping to improve his chances of winning her heart and hand.  (Unbeknownst to Shire, Clara is already married by the time he gets to her.)

In the meantime, Shire has quite a remarkable journey and it's really kind of a miracle that he finally gets to Clara.  He winds up enlisting in the Union Army, and endures some terrible battles within miles of Clara's new home.

Clara's husband is a fairly obnoxious piece of work.  He marries Clara, not for love, but for business and to improve his chances for a higher commission from the Confederate Army.  He respects only himself and expects his social, financial and military rank to afford him privileges not available to anyone he considers beneath him.

Richard Buxton's story set during the US Civil War portrays all the horrors and despair that crop up with brother turns against brother and a country implodes on itself.  I wondered how good a historical fiction novel set in one country by a citizen of another country could be and am happy to report a resounding 'pretty dang good'.

There are a number of Civil War historical sites near where I live and the (figurative) ghosts still haunt the land.  On more than one occasion, I have heard this conflict referred to as "The War of Northern Aggression".

If the events of and surrounding the US Civil War is one of your interests, you should already have or move to put this book on your stacks.



Richard lives with his family in the South Downs, Sussex, England. He completed an MA in Creative Writing at Chichester University in 2014. He has an abiding relationship with America, having studied at Syracuse University, New York State, in the late eighties. His short stories have won the Exeter Story Prize, the Bedford International Writing Competition and the Nivalis Short Story Award. Whirligig is his first novel and the opening book of Shire’s Union trilogy. Current projects include the second book, The Copper Road, as well as preparing to publish a collection of short stories.

To learn more about Richard’s writing visit You can also follow Richard on Facebook and Twitter.


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(Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book from the author and publishers via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, in exchange for my honest review.)

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