Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule by Jennifer Chiaverini is a novel based on the life of Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant (Julia) and her slave, Jule. The novel starts in 1834 (prologue) and then jumps ahead ten years to the spring of 1844.
Julia Dent grew up in Missouri. Her father was a slave owner. When Julia was four years old, she was presented with Julia (they had the same name). Julia was a ginger colored slave. Since they had the same name, Julia changed her maid’s name to Jule. The Dent’s country home was near Jefferson Barracks which housed soldiers. Ulysses, a recent graduate of West Point, was stationed at Jefferson Barracks. Ulysses came from an abolitionist family in Ohio. Despite their differences Julia and Ulys (as Julia called him) fell in love. Despite her father’s reluctance (he did not think that Ulysses could provide for Julia nor did he think that she would like military life) the two married.
Jule grew up with Julia and learned how to read, write (despite the laws to the contrary), dress hair, and make special concoctions (for hair and skin). Jule was in love with Gabriel, the groom. However, she would not marry him for fear that she would have to leave him when Julia married Ulysses. After Julia marries Jule is told that she will not be going with her mistress. Ulysses has been stationed at a posting where there is no room for servants. Jule had always hoped that when Julia married Ulysses values would rub off on Julia. Jule’s primary goal was her freedom.
The book goes on to describe Ulysses’ career, Julia’s and Ulysses marriage, children, the Civil War, and life in the White House, and their later years. Julia’s views on slaves did not change for a long time. She viewed slaves as necessary to the function of a household and the lifestyle Julia was accustomed to. Julia thought slaves liked having a home provided for them as well as clothes and food despite Jule’s attempts to explain how she felt about slavery.
Jule was lucky enough to run away from Julia during a trip and received help escaping to Washington City (Washington D.C.). Jule found success as a hairdresser as well as making and selling her salves, lotions, and tonics. Jule ended up living her life in Brooklyn, New York.
I have tried to give you a brief (as brief as I get) overview of the book without giving away any spoilers. I give Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule 4.5 stars out of 5. It is a exceptional book with incredible writing, but I did not find it as satisfying as The Elm Creek Quilt series. I also wished the book had written more about Jule. The main focus of the book is Julia and Ulysses Grant. Jennifer Chiaverini is a master storyteller and Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule will keep your eyes riveted to its pages. This book can easily be read without reading the previous three books: Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival, and The Spymistress. Ms. Chiaverini’s next book is Christmas Bells: A Novel. It will be released on October 27, 2015 (according to Amazon.com).
I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
So many wonderful books came out today. I love the first Tuesday of every month. I wake up to new books on my Kindle! I am a fan of cozy mysteries so this I purchased:
Dying for a Cupcake
A First Date with Death
Horse of a Different Killer
Ladle to the Grave
Murder Ties the Knot
Assault and Pepper
Splinters of Light
Terminal: A Virals Novel
Now I just need to find time to read them! There is a giveaway for A Fright to Death by Dawn Eastman on Goodreads. It is the next book in the Family Fortune Mystery series. You can enter the giveaway here (you need a Goodreads account).
Thank you for checking out my review of Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule. I am currently reading Million Dollar Baby by Amy Patricia Meade. Review to follow soon! Have a great evening and Happy Reading!