Thursday, March 2, 2017

Booknotes: Bad Scarlett

New Arrival:
Bad Scarlett: The Extraordinary Life of the Notorious Southern Beauty Marie Boozer
by Deborah C. Pollack (The Peppertree Pr, 2017).

From the book description: "Marie Boozer (1846 - 1908) was a beautiful, brilliant, and notorious strawberry blonde who established a remarkable life." Deborah Pollack's Bad Scarlett is Boozer's "first full-length biography and reveals the true, redemptive story of a young belle from South Carolina who transformed into a scandalous divorcee in New York and London, a Paris courtesan defying police authority, and ultimately a countess and world citizen—while her half sisters raised families in pioneer Florida."

On the author's website (linked above), there's a quote from Bell Wiley that positions Boozer as one of the four most famous southern women of the Civil War period. Another writer has claimed that Gone With The Wind's Scarlett O'Hara was based on her life (and thus the title of this book).

The bibliography and notes show significant research in archival sources, and one of the stated goals of the biography is to address the many rumors, half-truths, and outright fabrications associated with Boozer's colorful life. One chapter in particular, titled "The Kilpatrick Myth," immediately grabbed my attention. As the stories ago (and Pollack claims that 25 non-fiction titles published during the past 15 years perpetuate the legend), Boozer was one of the infamous ladies that accompanied General Kilpatrick during Sherman's 1865 march through the Carolinas, and she was sleeping with the general when his command was surprised and temporarily routed at the Battle of Monroe's Crossroads (the famous "Shirttail Skedaddle"). Pollack's research found no factual basis for these tales, noting that Boozer was never with Kilpatrick and instead traveled north with General Howard's column (that trip being documented in the following chapter).

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