Buffalo Soldier by Tanya Landman

Buffalo Soldier is an eye opening account of the Cavalry Regiment in the Civil war, told through the eyes of soldier Charley.

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This is a stunning historical novel, particularly for those who are ignorant about America’s civil war. Admittedly, I knew very little about the American civil war, and this book, for the historical information alone, was fantastic (at filling me in, to say the least). However, it is also an interesting read because it reads into the fate of slaves once they’ve been freed. Many assume that once the slaves were freed, the world was theirs, but as we learn, that was far from the case. As well as that, Landman uncovers some of America’s darkest history, making it a challenging, yet worthwhile read.

Charlotte grew up as a slave, facing years of hardship and deprivation, and was mistreated, to say the least, by the family that owned her. Then the war came around and she was ‘freed’. Yet freedom turned out to be far from the salvation that she desperately sought out, and as a result, Charlotte spent years after her master’s house had been burned down, facing severe hardship and extreme prejudice. It turns out that she was far from free, and after years of insecurity, she finds herself with incredibly limited options. So Charlotte turn to the army, the Cavalry to be precise.

Charlotte, (from this point on called Charley, because she had to pretend to be a man; after all only men were allowed in the army,) and the rest of the soldiers in her regiment, bond through their shared experiences, and they find strength in each other’s companionship. I thought that her fellow soldiers had very rich characters, and it was clear that their friendship with Charley was valued highly, so it was slightly bizarre that we were given only basic information about them.

They were the Buffalo Soldiers, the members of the U.S 10th Cavalry Regiment, and yet even in the army, where they were all working towards the same goal, there was still signs of racial tension. This reminds the reader again, that although the slaves are freed, this by no way means that they are respected and treated equally.

Charley is a bold, independent, resilient and intelligent person and I think that her character will appeal to everyone. She is evidently naive, yet after everything she has experience, she is ultimately wiser. The book is written from her point of view and gives us an utterly unique view of the civil war. Notably, the novel is written in Charley’s dialect, so it can be quite difficult to adjust to, and I think that whilst others will love this style, because it makes you feel immersed in the character, it can on the other hand be quite off-putting.

I thought it was fascinating to have a direct comparison to the way the pioneers of America were treated and the freed slaves, because often the freed slaves were viewed as lowest in society, and yes, they were treated appallingly, but in comparison to the Native Americans, they were living in luxury. It was also interesting to observe that instead of sympathising with the Native Americans, slaves, or ex-slaves, shared the same opinion as their master/ everyone else. As the book progresses though, we see that Charley’s opinion of them changes, as she realises that although so of the pioneers’ actions were questionable, they had unfairly been given a label.

Overall, an intriguing novel, and will delight those interested both in historical novels and YA. This book is not recommended for those under 13 because of the human cruelty and violence featured and is also probably not for those who find American history dull!

 

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