Two Jewish orphans flee Victorian London for a life as retailers to
the Confederacy. Someday someone will get a handle on the wonderful
story of the Jews who brought modern merchandising to the remotest
corners of Dixie and whose stores are still the place to shop
everywhere from Birmingham to Memphis. Until then, we are left with
the likes of this plodding, ultra-sincere but humorlessly romantic
history by the author of The Proprietor's Daughter (1988), etc.
Here, Nathan Solomon and his cousin Leonora, orphaned early by a
train wreck, have been left to the care of their dry-goods merchant
uncle Samuel, who keeps them in his Bloomsbury home but works them
to exhaustion in his store. Outraged by Uncle Sam's treatment of
his starving subcontractor seamstress, and tipped by their kindly
aura to uncle's secret hoard of gold pieces, Nathan and Leonora
flee to New Orleans, where they are taken under the wing of a
kindly Jewish cotton trader. Nathan learns all about cotton,
gambling, dueling, and love. There are romances with glamorous
Creoles, swordfights, plagues, and lessons in moderate democracy.
The cousins learn to love the South but loathe slavery. Leonora
loves Nathan but gets engaged to somebody else. Nathan loves and
loses. The Civil War brings the end of the good life in the Big
Easy, and everybody goes off to Atlanta to start from scratch and
become the founders of a nice department store. All this is told in
quaint, mid-20th-century fifth-grade textbook prose. Safe, snoozy
saga. (Kirkus Reviews)
Fleeing Britain in 1851, Nathan and his cousin Leonora take a ship
to America to seek their fortune. By sheer good luck they are
welcomed into the house of a cotton merchant, but a fatal duel, the
plague and the civil war cause heartbreak before the Solomons can
completely establish themselves.
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