Audiobook Review: I Shall Be Near to You

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Audiobook Review: I Shall Be Near to YouI Shall Be Near to You by Erin Lindsay McCabe
Narrator: Allyson Ryan
Length: 10 hrs, 19 mins
Published by Random House Audio on January 28, 2014
Genres: Historical, Romance
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
AmazonThe Book DepositoryAudible
Goodreads
four-stars

An extraordinary novel about a strong-willed woman who disguises herself as a man in order to fight beside her husband, inspired by the letters of a remarkable female soldier who fought in the Civil War.

Rosetta doesn't want her new husband Jeremiah to enlist, but he joins up, hoping to make enough money that they'll be able to afford their own farm someday. Though she's always worked by her father’s side as the son he never had, now that Rosetta is a wife she's told her place is inside with the other women. But Rosetta decides her true place is with Jeremiah, no matter what that means, and to be with him she cuts off her hair, hems an old pair of his pants, and signs up as a Union soldier.

With the army desperate for recruits, Rosetta has no trouble volunteering, although she faces an incredubous husband. She drills with the men, proves she can be as good a soldier as anyone, and deals with the tension as her husband comes to grips with having a fighting wife. Rosetta's strong will clashes with Jeremiah's while their marraige is tested by broken conventions, constant danger, and war, and she fears discovery of her secret even as they fight for their future, and for their lives. Inspired by more than 250 documented accounts of the women who fought in the Civil War while disguised as men, I Shall Be Near To You is the intimate story, in Rosetta’s powerful and gorgeous voice, of the drama of marriage, one woman’s amazing exploits, and the tender love story that can unfold when two partners face life’s challenges side by side.

One of the great things about getting emails about audiobooks is that they often contain books that I never would have heard of otherwise. While I do really enjoy adult fiction, I sometimes get a bit YA-focused, both because I’ve been having better luck with that lately and because that’s what most of my friends are into. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I’m glad I stumbled across I Shall Be Near to You, because I would hate to have missed it. Well, actually, I wouldn’t have known, but still I am glad that I got to read this book. It had me at gender bending.

People have told me, though I can’t imagine why, that gender bending is not a trope that interests everyone. Honestly, I love it and, if I see that it happens in a synopsis, I’m probably going to add that book to my reading list. In I Shall Be Near to You, it’s a woman gender bending to enlist with the Union Army during the Civil War, so that she will not be apart from her husband.

Rosetta strikes me as a rather convincing gender bender, aside from being really short and not able to grow facial hair, for obvious reasons. See, Rosetta’s not an ordinary woman of her time. Her father raised her to help out with chores on the family farm, so she’s tough and prides herself on being the kind of person who can do what needs doing. Allyson Ryan’s narration works perfectly, with a bit of a deeper feminine voice, and I think she captured Rosetta’s personality perfectly.

Nor is Rosetta an especially attractive woman. I’m sure she’s not hideous, but she was never the type of girl to be turning every man’s head. Her boy, Jeremiah, the handsomest boy in town, loves her for who she is. She basically forces him to marry before he enlists and then can’t bare to let him leave her alone on his parents’ farm. Jeremiah and Rosetta’s relationship is a really touching and convincing one, because he clearly loves her for being different and he is grateful to her for following along, even though he knows that he should have sent her home. They’re also pretty smart about the whole gender bending thing, relatively careful to not get caught, unlike a lot of people in these scenarios.

McCabe captures a lot of different aspects of the war really well. There’s the training and the endless waiting for something to actually happen. Much of soldiering is intensely boring. Rosetta, now going as Ross, and her company spend some time guarding a prison and marching endlessly. There are also a few battle scenes, gruesome, confused and still with the occasional patches of boredom. It’s muddy, bloody, and all feels such a waste. As always, there are the continual assertions that the war will end soon, when that’s never the case.

The soldiers themselves are a mixed bag, a whole bunch of guys with different personalities and motivations for having enlisted. There are horrible ones and nice ones and Bible-thumping ones. I like that McCabe didn’t make Rosetta a terrible soldier, but also that she’s not the best one. She is, however, quite capable. I also liked the inclusion of gay characters, something that’s not too often done when it’s not the central aspect of a plot.

As I mentioned before, Ryan really nailed the narration and brought the story to life. The audiobook was really well done, and I’m glad I chose this format for the story. I Shall Be Near to You is an excellent choice for historical fiction and/or gender bending fans.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

Mulan Make a Man Out of You

3 responses to “Audiobook Review: I Shall Be Near to You”

  1. Cayce says:

    Wow, this sounds like a powerful novel. I’m not big on historical novels but I do <3 cross-dressing/gender bender, so I might have to check this one out. Thanks for putting it on my radar! 🙂

    "I can’t imagine why, that gender bending is not a trope that interests everyone. " Haha, me neither. It's one of my favorite tropes.

    "pretty smart about the whole gender bending thing, relatively careful to not get caught, unlike a lot of people in these scenarios." – glad it's not like one of "those mangas" :DD

    " inclusion of gay characters," Another YAY.

    Great review!
    Cayce recently posted…[LGBT MONTH] Sign UpsMy Profile

  2. Re: inclusion of gay characters, I feel like that doesn’t often happen in the historical fiction I tend to pick up. Which is sad because it’s not like gay just happened this century.

    Anyways.

    GENDER BENDING FOR ALWAYS.

    Also, I just got this from Amazon vine and this is the second good review I’ve read and I am so excited!

  3. Bernadette says:

    Spot on with this write-up, I seriously believe this web site needs a lot more attention. I’ll probably
    be back again to read through more, thanks for the advice!
    Bernadette recently posted…BernadetteMy Profile

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