Editorial Review: The Bishop And The Rose by Victor A. Wilkie
The Bishop And The Rose is a family saga, following the Bishop family in Virginia and South Carolina. Readers have the opportunity to see family traits repeated through the generations, watch how one generation affects the next, and see what parents teach their children.
The setting is detailed and well-researched, beginning before the American Civil War. Historical detail about daily life adds to the story, bringing readers back in time. Life for the Bishops was often dangerous, at a time when minor medical mishaps could result in death. Even though the Bishops don’t own slaves, the storyline is touched by the violence and abuse of slavery, and then by the violence and dangers of war. But there are also beautiful moments of warm family connections and building relationships.
There are many Bishop relatives in this book, but the “bishop” of the title is Jefferson Bishop, and the “rose” is Lily Rose Holleman. Jefferson and Rose meet as children, but their love lasts a lifetime. Readers can see their affection blossom, and then turn from a teenage crush into a strong, loving marriage. When they’re separated during the war, their letters reveal their love. This love is the heart of the story, although both Jefferson and Rosie have challenges and successes outside of their relationship, their love propels the story through their entire lives.
I enjoyed the slow Southern diction, both in the dialogue and in the narration. The formal language and unhurried explanations were just a pleasure to read, and the characters with local dialect added additional color. The story moves gently at times, with long descriptions and some slow scenes. But relax into this unhurried style, and the domestic parts of this story will unfold at a lovely Southern pace. The love letters were written to be savored and reread.
The book is not only a domestic story, though. Jefferson Bishop fights in the American Civil War. War and battles almost always make for dramatic reading, but it’s particularly suspenseful during a time with such basic battlefield medicine. At a time when an infected wound was basically a death sentence, and when Confederate soldiers died of malnutrition and disease, these battlefield scenes are full of tension.
The battles are outwardly dangerous and dramatic, alongside some personal turmoil, as Jefferson fights for South Carolina, while harboring abolitionist morals.This worldview, blending the belief in the equality of men with strong pride and concern for their Southern community, runs through the Bishop family.
The Bishop And The Rose is based on real historic people, using letters, diary entries, and family stories to reconstruct their lives. The research offers enjoyable historical detail, and the story is even more special knowing it’s a true one. But there’s a common tendency to idealize our ancestors, and at a few moments, our characters felt just a little too good to be realistic. This novel offers excitement and danger, as well as love and friendship, but there could be a little more nuance.
Overall, this author has turned his family history into a warm and dramatic family saga, with true love at its heart.