An old favorite: Martha, Daughter of Virginia, by Marguerite Vance
Happy late President’s Day, y’all! What a weird holiday we’ve created – some amalgamation that’s supposed to celebrate George Washington’s birthday, but rarely falls on his actual birthday (February 22nd, nerds).
Regardless, I thought in the spirit of the holiday, we could do a little foray into the past, and look at some interesting historical fiction from my childhood.
I have no idea how Martha, Daughter of Virginia ended up in our family’s book collection. I don’t have any idea what drew me to a super dated hardcover historical fiction about the first of our First Ladies. All I know is that I read this book about eight million times between my 10th and 18th birthdays.
Martha, Daughter of Virginia tells the story of Martha Custis Washington, future wife of George Washington and First Lady of the United States. The emphasis of the book is not really on her life as First Lady – instead, it tells the story of Martha’s childhood, her coming of age, and her early first marriage to Daniel Custis. Her early life as a happy, wealthy woman raising young children is presented as pretty idyllic.
In contrast, Martha, Daughter of Virginia gives a relatively honest take on a woman who was widowed at 26 and remarried at 28 to a young officer with not particularly positive prospects. It does have a very romanticized take, which was the perfect match for a blossoming book/history nerd like me.
Just thinking about this book brings back all the memories – I remember the feel of the textured hardcover (dust jacket lost long long ago), and the smell of the pages (dating probably from the 1940s or 50s). The copy we owned was illustrated, in that way that only beautiful old books are illustrated – only occasionally, in black and white, and barely relevant to the text at hand.
It was the perfect book lovers book – bringing all of those amazing feelings each time you cracked the spine.
I think that there are very few books in life that hold their value over time (just as Austyn was sharing her love of The Bell Jar back in January), and I doubt Martha, Daughter of Virginia would hold up for me as an adult. (I think the reading level was grade 5.) At the same time, I know that Martha, Daughter of Virginia will always hold a special special place in my heart and in my memories.
Do you have a favorite historical fiction piece? Or a book from childhood you can’t forget?