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Flags on the Bayou
Cover of Flags on the Bayou
Flags on the Bayou
A Novel
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EDGAR AWARD WINNER FOR BEST NOVEL OF THE YEAR

From New York Times-bestselling author James Lee Burke comes a novel set in Civil War-era Louisiana as the South transforms and a brilliant cast of characters – enslaved and free women, plantation gentry, and battle-weary Confederate and Union soldiers – are caught in the maelstrom

In the fall of 1863, the Union army is in control of the Mississippi river. Much of Louisiana, including New Orleans and Baton Rouge, is occupied. The Confederate army is retreating toward Texas, and being replaced by Red Legs, irregulars commanded by a maniacal figure, and enslaved men and women are beginning to glimpse freedom.

When Hannah Laveau, an enslaved woman working on the Lufkin plantation, is accused of murder, she goes on the run with Florence Milton, an abolitionist schoolteacher, dodging the local constable and the slavecatchers that prowl the bayous. Wade Lufkin, haunted by what he observed—and did—as a surgeon on the battlefield, has returned to his uncle's plantation to convalesce, where he becomes enraptured by Hannah. Flags on the Bayou is an engaging, action-packed narrative that includes a duel that ends in disaster, a brutal encounter with the local Union commander, repeated skirmishes with Confederate irregulars led by a diseased and probably deranged colonel, and a powerful story of love blossoming between an unlikely pair. As the story unfolds, it illuminates a past that reflects our present in sharp relief.

James Lee Burke, whose "evocative prose remains a thing of reliably fierce wonder" (Entertainment Weekly), expertly renders the rich Louisiana landscape, from the sunsets on the Mississippi River to the dingy saloons of New Orleans to the tree-lined shores of the bayou and the cottonmouth snakes that dwell in its depths. Powerful and deeply moving, Flags on the Bayou is a story of tragic acts of war, class divisions upended, and love enduring through it all.

EDGAR AWARD WINNER FOR BEST NOVEL OF THE YEAR

From New York Times-bestselling author James Lee Burke comes a novel set in Civil War-era Louisiana as the South transforms and a brilliant cast of characters – enslaved and free women, plantation gentry, and battle-weary Confederate and Union soldiers – are caught in the maelstrom

In the fall of 1863, the Union army is in control of the Mississippi river. Much of Louisiana, including New Orleans and Baton Rouge, is occupied. The Confederate army is retreating toward Texas, and being replaced by Red Legs, irregulars commanded by a maniacal figure, and enslaved men and women are beginning to glimpse freedom.

When Hannah Laveau, an enslaved woman working on the Lufkin plantation, is accused of murder, she goes on the run with Florence Milton, an abolitionist schoolteacher, dodging the local constable and the slavecatchers that prowl the bayous. Wade Lufkin, haunted by what he observed—and did—as a surgeon on the battlefield, has returned to his uncle's plantation to convalesce, where he becomes enraptured by Hannah. Flags on the Bayou is an engaging, action-packed narrative that includes a duel that ends in disaster, a brutal encounter with the local Union commander, repeated skirmishes with Confederate irregulars led by a diseased and probably deranged colonel, and a powerful story of love blossoming between an unlikely pair. As the story unfolds, it illuminates a past that reflects our present in sharp relief.

James Lee Burke, whose "evocative prose remains a thing of reliably fierce wonder" (Entertainment Weekly), expertly renders the rich Louisiana landscape, from the sunsets on the Mississippi River to the dingy saloons of New Orleans to the tree-lined shores of the bayou and the cottonmouth snakes that dwell in its depths. Powerful and deeply moving, Flags on the Bayou is a story of tragic acts of war, class divisions upended, and love enduring through it all.

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  • Library Journal

    February 1, 2023

    In 1863 Louisiana, with the Confederate army in disarray and the Union army occupying most of the state, a formerly enslaved woman named Hannah Laveau who works on the Lufkin plantation is accused of murder and goes on the run with an abolitionist schoolteacher. Meanwhile, Wade Lufkin, horrified by what he has seen as a battlefield surgeon, returns to his uncle's plantation and becomes entranced by Hannah. Prepub Alert.

    Copyright 2023 Library Journal

    Copyright 2023 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from May 22, 2023
    Set in Louisiana toward the end of the Civil War, this outstanding thriller from Edgar winner Burke (the Dave Robicheaux series) explores the corrosive effects of violence. In late 1863, Louisiana is largely under Union control, though bands of marauding Confederate soldiers roam the countryside. Hannah Laveau, an enslaved woman reputed to be related to a notorious voodoo priestess, stands accused of murdering the sadistic plantation owner who assaulted her. In jail, she meets abolitionist schoolteacher Florence Milton, who takes Hannah under her wing. Eventually, the two women escape. On the run from slave catchers and a constable who doggedly pursues them, Hannah and Florence make their way across the devastated state. The chorus of narrators who recount the pair’s adventures includes Wade Lufkin, an artist and surgeon’s assistant haunted by the Union soldier he killed during battle, who crosses paths with the women and falls in love with Hannah. Burke stitches plot threads and historical details with ease, weaving it all into an urgent, propulsive story steeped in his deep personal connections to Louisiana.
    This is masterful. Agent: Anne-Lise Spitzer, Philip Spitzer Literary.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from June 1, 2023
    Burke, author of the Dave Robicheaux series, among many other books, steps away from crime fiction and transports readers back to 1863 in Louisiana, which seceded from the Union a couple of years earlier and is now under pressure from the Union Army. Against this backdrop, which Burke paints in vivid detail, we follow an array of characters. Wade Lufkin, from a prosperous family, clashes with lawman Pierre Cauchon. Hannah Laveau, a young, enslaved Creole woman, is determined to find her son, from whom she was separated during the Battle of Shiloh; she's also suspected of murdering a plantation owner. Abolitionist Colonel Carleton Hayes offers to help the Lufkin family defend their plantation from the Union invaders. And Florence Milton, a good woman with a dark streak, helps Hannah in fleeing from jail. Their stories interweave, creating a tapestry of the Civil War seen from various perspectives. The writing is lush and lavishly descriptive in its evocation of this very specific time and place. Some of the language might be offensive since Burke deliberately uses historically accurate terminology to describe the enslaved and other people, but to do otherwise would violate the truth of this Civil War story. A remarkable, beautiful, edgy, and haunting novel.

    COPYRIGHT(2023) Booklist, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from May 1, 2023
    The Civil War comes to New Iberia, Louisiana, the capital of Burke's wondrous fictional empire. Seriously in debt to business associate Minos Suarez, Charles Lufkin rents him Hannah Laveau, an enslaved woman he's recently purchased. Things don't go well for either Hannah, whom Suarez unmercifully assaults, or Suarez, who's found castrated with his throat cut shortly after Hannah parts company with him. Just as Hannah is haunted by Samuel, the son from whom she was separated during the bloody Union attack on Shiloh Church, Lufkin's nephew, Wade, who volunteered as a medical officer on the condition that he wouldn't have to fight, is haunted by the Union officer he killed. Pierre Cauchon, the local "oversight constable for Negro legal problems" who's already tangled with his own devils, soon comes up against another two officers on opposing sides of the conflict. Confederate Col. Carleton Hayes is a self-described man of "egalitarian views" who's hanged a number of abolitionists and would like to hang more. Union officer Capt. John Endicott's enfilade at Shiloh Church left Cauchon traumatized but, unlike so many of his other comrades, still alive. As schoolmistress Florence Milton takes Hannah under her wing and goes into hiding with her, Wade Lufkin challenges Cauchon to a duel with an unexpected result. All the while, conflicts rage between the two sides in the war, between ostensible allies on either side, and within every single character. In his closing acknowledgments, Burke indicates that he considers this novel his very best. Even readers who find themselves swamped by all the calamities of war may well agree that it's his most probing examination of the enduring legacy of slavery. A grueling, compassionate demonstration that "the devil ain't down in a fiery pit. He's right here."

    COPYRIGHT(2023) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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A Novel
James Lee Burke
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