The Disagreement: A Novel by Nick Taylor, ISBN 978-1416550655, Simon & Schuster, © 2008, 360 Pages – Hardcover (7×10) – $24.95
It was a time of metamorphosis, when civilians became soldiers, boys changed into men, and the enslaved set free. A nation torn asunder, North from South, peacetime transformed into a time of war, the innocence of youth, in its fiery crucible, burned away, and what remained was the hardened knowledge of adulthood.
It is this cataclysmic time of change which Nick Taylor has used as the setting for his debut novel, “The Disagreement.” Written as a memoir, Taylor’s book is less a novel of the Civil War, and more a coming-of-age story of its narrator, John Alan Muro, who has announced to his family his intention to become a doctor, a profession on which his father, now the owner of a local woolery, turned his back years before.
John Alan’s hopes to attend medical school in Philadelphia were dashed on his sixteenth birthday when his home state, Virginia, voted to secede from the United States. Not wanting to send their only son off to war, Mr. & Mrs. Muro decide to honor their son’s wishes and send him to medical school at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
At the University of Virginia John Alan meets the people who will populate the rest of his life, his roommate, Braxton Beaucom III (B.B.); mentor, Dr. Cabell (rhymes with rabble) and his niece, Lorrie Wigfall; and patient, Lt. Stone (formerly Dr. Stone). It is where John Alan grows from a boy to a man, from a student to a doctor, where he learns about love and heartache, and the hardships of war, and making due without.
Mr. Taylor’s narrative takes us behind the scenes of a Confederate General Hospital and shows us its inner workings; where supplies of drugs are low or nonexistent and medical science must turn to home remedies for its medical cures. As the war goes badly for the Confederate cause, Mr. Taylor shows us the wreckage of war, through the hospital’s over-crowded wards where the wounded, out of necessity, get the only the slightest of the doctors attentions and death is everywhere.
“The Disagreement” is a wonderful debut novel, and a joy to read. Mr. Taylor has skillfully written a novel whose characters and the world in which they inhabit emerge from the chrysalis of the Civil War and have been truly transformed by the experience of it.
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