V “cuts a remarkable figure—bookish, witty, opinionated, generous and nearly always the wisest person in the room. It’s impossible not to fall in love with her, which is the point and also the problem, because while Varina was bravely pro-Union she did not, in any meaningful way, oppose slavery. Mr. Frazier’s superb novel is both a large-hearted homage and a sensitive reckoning of the guilt that accrues to those who ‘profited from pain in the face of history’s power to judge.’”
"A banquet of first-rate storytelling follows, with cameos by the lonely old bachelor President Buchanan; the boisterous, cynical Mary Chesnut, who is always happy to share her opium supply; and even Oscar Wilde, who visits the Davises in Louisiana in 1882, hoping to bring back to Ireland Jefferson’s advice on staging a revolution. “He was never a rebel,” Varina corrects him, displaying an effortless ability to deflate her husband’s delusions of grandeur. “He was a businessman and a politician who believed the Constitution protected the capital of his class and culture above everything else.” See what I mean about falling in love with her?"
"Varina is [...] a masterful portrait of a woman who brings uncommon dignity to her remembrances, and to the lifelong work of atonement."