In the late 1850’s, John Given, a young Irishman who has abandoned his studies for the priesthood, arrives in New Harmony, Indiana, in the afterglow of its utopian experiment and soon finds himself both in love with the town’s most alluring woman and immersed in the horrifying violence of war. Based on a wealth of original documents and told with a counterpointing narrative on the homefront, Suite Harmonic: A Civil War Novel of Rediscovery brings a rare intensity and accuracy to an infantryman’s battlefield experience and an immigrant’s fraught quest to find his place in a new land.
NEW – December, 2012: In honor of the 150th anniversary of one of the Civil War’s most dramatic and lop-sided battles, between the remnant of the 25th Indiana and Van Dorn’s 10,000 Confederate men, read The Battle of Davis Mills.
Suite Harmonic: Chapter One
Suite Harmonic: Chapter Six
Suite Harmonic: Chapter Seven
Suite Harmonic: Chapter Nine
Suite Harmonic: Chapter Nine–Night at Shiloh
Suite Harmonic: Chapter Thirteen
Suite Harmonic: Chapter Twenty-Three
Suite Harmonic: Chapter Twenty-Four
Suite Harmonic: Chapter Thirty-one
From the Interview:
Emily, could you tell us about the writers who have influenced your fiction most and if their presence is evident in Suite Harmonic?
–Eileen Hunter, Marine on St. Croix, Minnesota
I have a very long list of favorite writers, but I’m honestly not sure which of them have influenced my work except to say that every writer is created by other writers. We learn to write in part by reading and, whether or not we make a conscious study of a writer’s technique and style, those things are as intrinsic to the work as whatever it is that thematically draws us in as readers. Maybe something does rub off. But in terms of specific writers who may have somehow made their presence felt in Suite Harmonic, I can think of just two, and they may be surprising. Read more…
As the author of Suite Harmonic, if you could be reincarnated from the past to the present time, what famous New Harmony person would you be, and why?
—Jim Stinson, New Harmony, Indiana
Jim, I knew I could count on you for a fun question, but I should start with a disclaimer. Though many of New Harmony’s luminaries do get a mention in Suite Harmonic, I’m far from being an expert on any of them as they weren’t my primary subjects. I know them the way you can know people in town you don’t really know.
But my first thought on this is that I really would not want to be Hildegard Mutschler. Read more…
Your main character in Suite Harmonic is an Irish immigrant. As a writer raised in the segregationist South and interested in racial history, I wonder if the fact your protagonist had experienced his own form of subjugation in his native country affected the way you approached the issue of race in a book about a war fought largely over slavery.
—Paulette Bates Alden, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Since my original source material for Suite Harmonic, John Given’s Civil War letters, had a couple of oblique race references, I was attuned to this question in an unusual way right from the start, although I should back up just a bit. Read more…
In Suite Harmonic you take on some of the “big” themes – warfare, religious tensions, social organization – which are often assumed to be men’s territory, in both life and writing. You once referred approvingly to another woman writer who regularly trespassed on this kind of territory. Did any such intention play a part in your project?
—Mary Michaels, London, England
Mary, I have a whole page of random notes about things I’d like to say in response to this question. But before I try to organize those ideas into a more focused answer, I want to square up the gender question with the fact that I’m a woman who, in Suite Harmonic, has written a novel about a man at war. Read more…
John Given was in the Siege of Atlanta as a Union soldier. Do you find it ironic, or at least interesting, that a number of his descendants live in the Atlanta area?
—Pam Greer, Carrollton, Georgia
Pam, I think John Given might be more surprised than I am that some of his descendants, including you and your children and grandchildren, are Georgians. But it does feel ironic to me that he went to Atlanta to fight against the South, while a number of his descendants now actually live there. Read more…
Suite Harmonic music links:
John Tavener, “The Protecting Veil: VIII,” London Symphony Orchestra
Mason Daring, “Selke Song” and ”Return to Roan Inish“ from The Secret of Roan Inish
“Hosanna,” Soweto Gospel Choir, from African Spirit
“When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” Emily at her desk
To explore further, please go to the Book Clubs tab for Comments and Quotes, and questions for Emily (Short Takes-Q&A). And look in Bonus Excerpts in Excerpts for Baseball Moments, Bar Scenes and Church Scenes.