In „Firefly” Whitney Hamilton created a beautiful combination of a historical Civil War novel with a lesbian romance trend. The story seems to be written after Henry Kieler’s journal, it starts in July 31st, 1861 in Charleston, South Carolina at the begining of the Cold War when the news comes to Grace’s home that her brothers Henry, William and Hamilton and her husband Luscious had died in the War and shortly her parents die too and shortly they have lost their big home into the Great Charleston Fire and their Columbia farm very soon and Grace and her sister Louise decide to join the war as their brothers Henry and Will, while Lucy is pregnant and has the fever and it is left behind at some far relatives. The story ends in July 13th, 1866 in Shepherdstown, West Virginia when Henry finally finds his home into Virginia’s arms marrying her as an arrangement to help her not to lose her farm. Remember, in those times many men died and women were alone and without rights because the men in the family had all the rights according to the laws and women had none, that’s why when Virginia’s husband Oliver died all the propriety rights went her brother in law Loyd, her sister’s Jessie husband who was secretly in love with Virginia and very jealous on Henry.
„Firefly” is a huge surprise regarding the expectations from the characters. Henry/Grace mysteriously starts his/her journey and it follows in the same undertone of disguise on his/her road less taken to maturity from the high society mistress grace to a soldier that witnesses the horrors of the American Civil War including the martyr of his/her sister Louise and finally into Virginia’s shy husband in disguise. And there’s Virginia, a usual housewife from the south to whom the War has stolen her sight, her child, her husband and almost her property, yet not her feminine surface and the beautiful intimacy between her soul and her heart and her mind engulfed in her body and her need to love and belong altogether with the southern hospitality that turns her into the strong woman that although being blind manages to conquer Henry’s heart and to follow and fulfill her destiny.
Grace needs to get lost into Henry’s identity in order to survive and willingly takes the burden of war onto him, perhaps in search of forgetting the death of her family members or perhaps out of innocence she becomes him, yet holds a tenderness and a self consciousness that melts Virginia’s heart. Henry fights with Louise as Will and Robert and Joseph, yet she has to witness her pregnant sister’s brutal death and swears she will find Eliza, Louise’s daughter. They meet Virginia while they were heading towards Gettysburg and she was very scared with Sophie in her arms, her daughter and they take her silver service, yet Joseph will return it after the war. After his sister’s death, Henry deserts the army and lives in the woods with a boy, Jamison, he saved from a dangerous situation, Grace was dust and now Henry just needed to survive, but when Jamison is badly hurt by Indians and he let himself go in the river, Henry’s heart sank and he was also wounded, had an X marked on his chest and in search of work he arrives at Virginia’s farm right on time to help her keep the land.
Virginia’s life was beautiful with her husband Oliver, although she feared everytime he left their cabin at the farm from down the Appalachian Mountains to join the war, especially now when she was pregnant with his child. She helps her sister Jessie to tend the wounded and Oliver dies in her arms and she’s badly wounded and lost her sight , yet gives birth to her daughter Sophie right there between the hospital’s bricks, it’s a miracle. She lives with her sister a while and when for the first time she stays the night at the cabin, she meets Henry and Joseph, but she loses Sophie who dies of the cold. She’s shattered and involves herself into silence until she meets an old mistress who offers her a home and the chance to become a piano teacher to the children in town, there she meets to women that love each other Anna and Katie, yet the funding is off after some time and she decides to come back to her cabin at the farm after her brother in law had tend to it a bit after winter and then she meets Henry.
Virginia was created very imaginative, with a strong sense of tenderness, kindness, intimacy and self-conscious, she studies her feelings towards her husband, she learns so much together with her blindness comes a whole new world of wanders, she ties knots and creates phrases that speak her own mind, she’s intuitive, her other senses are sharper now, her sense of smell, her capacity to empathize and to sense things deeper, she can read people with her mind’s eye. As a reader I fell in love with Virginia’s combination of beauty, tenderness, intimacy and strength of will. Henry too, that’s why he accepted her marriage proposal, that’s why he helped her save the farm, that’s why he left when Grace couldn’t understand the fact that she loved a woman. Virginia found out so much about herself in loving Henry and how her sensations differ and how her feelings deepen for a boy that hasn’t even kissed her, she will kiss him and he’ll kiss her back after a long time, yet this waiting creates the love that makes their hearts last with hope and with a love beyond eternity.
What’s striking, indeed, is the fact that the sexual relationship between men and women are very well written and described widely, while the lesbian sexuality is missing and gets lost in the intimacy of the inner feelings of the two women and the care, the understanding of each perception of each other, remember it’s their first and last time with a woman that will last forever.
I loved it when they married and Henry keeps the distance and sleeps in the barn, yet he cannot deny his growing feelings for Virginia and he fears she needs to tell her the truth of Grace and of the War. And he gives Virginia her own wedding ring. And when Henry goes home to see Eliza he realizes his home s Virginia and how thy see fireflies separately, very romantic. Virginia senses Henry’s desire towards her and even his love, yet doesn’t understand why he doesn’t make love to her, I loved the image of Henry’s bath and the way Whitney Hamilton described Virginia naked in the firelight.
Mesmerizing novel with blisful, real living characters from yesterday brought to life today.
The movie holds a great hope to match at least half of the books accomplishments to reveal the historical truth and the drama of the characters entwine by the change that can be tragic, yet still an amazingly beautiful light created in times of love and war.