Read Jarrettsville by Cornelia Nixon Online


Based on a true story from the author's family history, "Jarrettsville" begins in 1869, amid chaos and confusion in the moments following Martha Jane Cairnes's murder of her fiance in front of 50 witnesses and former Union militia members....

Title : Jarrettsville
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781582435121
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 340 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Jarrettsville Reviews

  • Tara Chevrestt
    2018-11-23 23:53

    Fabulous novel! I couldn't put it down. There is history, war, romance, and even a mystery in a way. The setting is the the very end of the American Civil War when North and South are still dealing with their hatred of each other and a country is torn apart by different ideas and beliefs. Tho the war is officially over, in a small town called Jarrettsville, emotions are still running high. I loved the history in this book. Very rarely do books go into much detail about the aftermath of a war. The politics, the assassination of Lincoln, the controversies of slavery and how the freedmen are treated are all summed up in this book. The author does not gloss over it either, but really lets readers see how it must have been. Back to Jarrettsville.. The beginning of the book starts a couple years after the war has ended when Martha walks up to Nicholas and shoots him dead. She shoots him more than once. Then she cries about it. If that doesn't get ones attention, I don't know what will.. Anyway, from the get go, you know whodunit. No mystery there. But whytheydunit remains to be seen and Ms. Nixon takes us back four years before to provide the answer. Here it becomes a tragic love story complete with family conflicts, deaths, differing opinions, nosy townfolk, and even racial tensions. Do not be put off by the sudden time change. It is expertly done. Once it goes back four years, it pretty much stays there till the very end when it goes back to the time of the murder and then into the trial. The murder and trial scenes are told from different viewpoints of people involved or nearby, but the majority of the book is told from either Martha or Nicholas' point of view. Towards the end, you know whodunit and whytheydunit, but you must keep reading to find out what becomes of Martha. Does she go to jail? Does she hang? Does her brother take the rap for her? As I said above, I couldn't put it down. There was even, in my opinion, a moral in the story of Martha and Nicholas. Communicate! If he had only told her his concerns and cleared the air about certain issues, so much sadness could have been avoided. Highly recommended to historical fiction or Civil War buffs or readers that just appreciate a good book.

  • Sterlingcindysu
    2018-11-27 15:51

    Miss Otis regrets she's unable to lunch today, madam.And she's sorry to be delayed,but last evening down at lover's laneshe strayed, madam.Miss Otis regrets she's unable to lunch today.When she woke up and foundthat her dream of love was gone, madam,she ran to the manwho had lead her so far astray.And from under her velvet gownshe drew a gun and shot her lover down, madam.Miss Otis regrets she's unable to lunch today.When the mob came and got herand dragged her from the jail, madam,they strung her upon the willow across the way.And the moment before she diedshe lifted up her lovely head and cried, madam.Miss Otis regrets she's unable to lunch.Well, this isn't quite the story and the people involved weren't that polite but this is the basic plot--the fury of a woman scorned in the aftermath of the Civil War. I thought the best part was Nixon's take of a town divided between the Blue and Grey (in Maryland) trying NOT to settle down. When you've had family killed, fortunes lost and hard times you're not likely to forget and forgive no matter whose side you're on. Everyone worked so hard. Back to the main story, Dixon does a great job of fabricating the back stories of both Nick and Martha Jane, and does it from multiple viewpoints.

  • Lois
    2018-11-21 16:52

    We've heard of the Hatfields and McCoys but here is another story of a small, divided, border state community dealing with competing sympathies post Civil War. As reviewer Paula M put it: "Jarrettsville" explores the explosive sentiments on both sides of war-torn Maryland and the division brought to that part of the country by the Union victory and the murder of Abraham Lincoln. The McComas and Cairnes family farms are both run by brothers who struggle to support their sisters and mothers after the war and share an open hatred toward each other that destroys the most promising members of both families in the town of Jarrettsville, where former slave-owners, abolitionists, and freedmen live within half a mile of each other." This tragedy though, unlike the Hatfield and McCoy version, escaped general public notice until retold by a Cairnes family descendant. It is superbly told- Nixon captured each of the voices in her story convincingly. It deals head-on with multi-layered prejudices and their consequences on both personal and public levels. It is also the tragic love story of Martha Jane Cairnes and Nicholas McComas. Recommended.

  • Sue
    2018-11-25 20:42

    I love historical fiction, and I love stories of real women's lives, especially women not well known to history. This book is both, and I would recommend it to any reader who shares these interests. The book is based on the true story of Martha Jane Cairnes, a woman in post-Civil War Maryland who gunned down her lover in front of an entire hotel full of witnesses and yet was found not guilty. This is not a spoiler; the murder is the first scene in the book. The author then envisions the story -- from a variety of viewpoints -- that led up to the murder and re-creates the sensational trial that followed. And though it is a very personal story of love gone wrong, the author does an excellent job of setting the story within the complex background of divided loyalties that existed in the aftermath of the Civil War, especially in Jarretsville, Maryland, just six miles south of the Mason-Dixon line.I might have given this book 5 stars, but I do think that -- after the initial murder -- the story takes a little too long to get off the ground. At one point relatively early in the story, I was tempted not to continue, but I'm so glad that I did. (And I must say, if the author has come even reasonably close to the truth regarding Martha's lover, I might have shot him myself!)

  • Laura
    2018-11-10 23:06

    When you think of Civil War-era novels, you usually think Deep South and just before or during the War (ok, maybe you don't; I do.). Jarrettsville takes place in Maryland, very close to Pennsylvania, in the days immediately following Lee's surrender/Lincoln's murder through four years later.The story is based on real events, real people (the author's ancestors) - one of those "we don't talk about him/her and What Happened" things. I'm glad Ms. Nixon did find out what happened, because the murder and the "whydoneit" are fascinating. The concept of Southern Pride being so close to my Northern home surprised me - whoda thunk that Maryland was such a hotbed of Southern sympathizers? Or that even freed slaves were considered (by some) "property"? The era and the setting alone give this book an original flavor; telling Martha's story from multiple perspectives reminds us that no one event is clear cut. Like the War itself, there are layers and layers to unfold.

  • Serena
    2018-12-03 16:55

    Jarrettsville by Cornelia Nixon begins in 1869, four years after the Confederate surrender and the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, in Jarrettsville, Md., just below the Mason-Dixon line. Tensions continue to run high in this town with former Confederate and Union soldiers continue to hold their prejudices and wear them on their faces and express them in their venomous words.With tensions running high, the only possible outcome for a young love between Martha Jane Cairnes, the daughter of a Southern and loyal Confederate family, and Nick McComas, a former Union soldier and advocate of Black rights, is heartache and murder.Nixon rips pages from events in her family history to create a novel that breaths life into the tensions following the U.S. Civil War. Despite the reunification of our nation, both sides are unwilling to let go and reconcile.Read the full review:

  • Tattered Cover Book Store
    2018-11-19 15:50

    This book is the second book featured in Tattered Cover's new program of "Very Impressive Books" and has quickly become a staff and community favorite.Cathy L says:Cornelia Nixon's novel begins in 1869 as Martha Jane Cairnes murders Nicholas McComas infront of many witnesses in Jarrettsville, Maryland, a town just below the Mason-Dixon Line and a microcosm of America in the years following the Civil War. This tale of two lovers and why it ends so badly for them is the story of neighbor fighting neighbor, old customs and quarrels dying hard, passion, friendship, and the complicated relationships between whites and blacks, all told exquisitely.***Please look for this great book at you local independent bookstore. A store finder can be found at***

  • Karen Hogan
    2018-11-25 21:02

    Enjoyed this book based on the author's ancestor who shot her fiancé in front of the whole town. The description of the town of Jarrettsville, MD, and the animosity that existed between neighbors who had fought on different sides of the Civil War gave this reader a good feel for how emotions still ran high, even though the war was over. The various first hand accounts from the witnesses, prisoner, and victim was an excellent way for the author to tell the story. I became especially annoyed during her fiance's point of view. His behavior and abandonment of her was unforgivable. No small wonder she shot him..

  • Scott Lupo
    2018-11-25 20:09

    Great historical fiction book that is based on the author's family line. Taking place during Lincoln's assasination near the Mason-Dixon Line, the story captures the essence of living life during those times. It is also a love story but is not overwhelming. Each chapter is written from the point of view of a different character. I could picture every scene as I read through this well-written book.

  • Erin
    2018-11-24 22:49

    This is embarrassing. I actively asked my friend to borrow this book from her after reading her glowing review 3 years ago...and then it took me that long to actually read it. And only because another friend wanted to do a buddy read on it! Thank goodness she finally asked because A) I was able to read it and return it to its rightful owner, and B) I got to experience this book firsthand and it was fantastic!Our public library doesn't have this and it's a dang shame because I was seriously thinking about choosing it for book club. The story starts out with a literal bang--in 1865 after Lincoln is assassinated, Martha Jane Cairnes shoots her former fiancee Nick Comas 5 times, killing him. Why? What could have led up to that? Then the book goes back to when they first meet, and you get to learn about the courting of Nick and Martha (from both their perspectives), and what unfortunate events led to Nick's untimely demise.Martha and Nick were real people, loosely related to Cornelia Nixon, which makes this story that much more fascinating. And she has a beautiful knack for writing, writing her characters from multiple perspectives authentically. She illustrates a variety of themes without hammering the reader over the head: the upheaval felt after the Civil War, the strong beliefs of appropriate male/female roles in society (and why you should never violate those roles), former slave owners taking advantage of their slaves/freedmen/freedwomen, the enduring racism of the rebels, the repressed and feared sexuality of women, the pressure to conform for both men and women, postpartum depression--all handled with deft and grace. She covers a lot of ground, but it never dragged. I just wish I'd been able to read it without so many breaks, but other things got in the way.A fascinating, beautifully told story that felt utterly unique. Well done, Ms. Nixon!

  • Jennifer Arnold
    2018-11-20 18:51

    A really impressive but still rich in spot-on period detail, Jarrettsville is the story of why Martha Jane Cairnes shot and killed her fiance Nick McComas in front of 50+ former Union soldiers celebrating the anniversary of Lee's surrender at Appomatox. The first and final sections of the novel take place in 1869 at the time of Nick's murder and Martha's trial, while the middle section takes us back to 1865, and the start of Martha and Nick's relationship. Nixon uses one of my favorite narrative techniques - using a variety of characters to tell the story. While Martha and Nick are the primary narrators, we also hear from the town doctor, the sheriff, Martha's cousin Isie, and others. Each narrative voice propels the story further and further along until its ultimate conclusion: the verdict on Martha's guilt or innocence.It's a story of love gone tragically wrong...a tragedy informed by the time, immediately post-Civil War and Lincoln's assassination, and place, Maryland, a state where brothers, cousins, and neighbors ended up on opposite sides - some Union, some secessionist. There's great suspense as the story of Martha and Nick unfolds, but also so much else going on, particularly issues of race (portrayed mainly through Martha's touching relationship with Tim, a former slave) and gender (double-standards abound, as we see with both Martha and Isie).Cornelia Nixon is a descendant of Martha Jane's family, and based the story (including much of the testimony at trial) on newspaper reports and the family papers she inherited - which just goes to show that skeletons in the family closet make great stories.

  • Paula Margulies
    2018-11-23 20:43

    A fascinating, well-written look at the aftermath of the Civil War. The story (based on actual historical events) begins with the murder, in broad daylight, of Nick McComas, a Union soldier and sheep farmer, by a Rebel farmer's daughter, Martha Jane Cairnes, who was Nick's betrothed. The author, Cornelia Nixon, who is a descendant of Cairnes, takes us back in time, through the events leading up to the killing and the subsequent trial. A stunningly-written novel that explores the explosive sentiments on both sides of war-torn Maryland and the division brought to that part of the country by the Union victory and the murder of Abraham Lincoln. The McComas and Cairnes family farms are both run by brothers who struggle to support their sisters and mothers after the war and share an open hatred toward each other that destroys the most promising members of both families in the town of Jarrettsville, where former slave-owners, abolitionists, and freedmen live within half a mile of each other. The author tells the story through the various points-of-view of Nick McComas, Martha Jane Cairnes, Martha Jane's brother, Richard, who is implicated in the turn of events between Nick and Martha Jane, Martha Jane's mother, and a host of other witnesses and family members. The voices ring true and the descriptions of the countryside and the emotions that drove both sides of the war are superbly detailed. Not only for Civil War buffs, Jarrettsville is a terrific read for those who like historicals and tragic love stories.

  • Jann Barber
    2018-11-22 16:39

    The Jarrettsville Library book club received copies of this book before it was on sale to the public. It was fascinating to read the story of Martha and Nick, and it was helpful to be able to ask questions of the doctoral student who was writing his dissertation on the publication of this book. The author will speak at the library on November 2nd, so I am looking forward to that event! I even went to the cemetery where Nick and Martha are buried and found their gravestones. The format chosen fit the story well. It was especially helpful to see Martha's perspective of events followed by Nick's. I highly recommend this book! Yes, there's a love story, but it is much more. The Civil War did not "end" when it officially ended. In Maryland, where sons from the same family may have fought on opposing sides, feelings ran high for years after the way. This affected how members of the community viewed and treated each other. Unfortunately, it played heavily in the story of Martha and Nick.

  • Amiee Freeman
    2018-12-11 23:56

    The novel starts with the alarming murder of a young man by a woman. It is set in years just after the Civil War in Maryland. From this jarring beginning, we are introduced to Martha Jane Cairns, the murder, and Nick McComas, the victim. The two were engaged to be married, but the marriage had been delayed for a variety of reasons. I thought this would be an easy summer read, and it was engaging. Several difficult topics were broached including racism and ideals of feminine virtue. As the book goes along we become more attached to the characters. Knowing what is coming for each, it becomes hard to continue reading. The reader will be rewarded by doing so, however. Upon completion of the novel I did feel a bit cynical as we find out in the epilogue that the author is related to Martha Jane. Perhaps instead of being star-crossed lovers, she was a hellion and he a cad. But if we suspend disbelief and go along with the author's story, it is a good read.

  • Jennifer
    2018-12-08 18:01

    There were things I liked about this book. 1) I liked hearing different points of view and 2)I liked Martha Jane's sections--I thought how she interacted and felt about the slaves in their family was really interesting and very emotionally developed. I thought the book was really, really interesting until . . .Nicholas's points-of-view ruined the book for me. I didn't understand why he behaved how he did and he struck me as a paranoid, slightly-mentally-ill character. I think I was supposed to find him reliable as a narrator, but to me, he just read crazy. Martha's brother may have had abhorrent views, but they were internally consistent. Nicholas was not a consistent character. So, that was disappointing and those parts took me forever to finish. Then, I lost interest and skimmed the end.I wish I liked the book more.

  • Jeff
    2018-12-10 00:07

    I grew up in Jarrettsville! I remember when they tore down the old Jarrett house when I was very young.I was browsing at B&N when this book caught my eye on a table and I nearly lost my mind. How could there be a book about the tiny town where I was raised that did not have a red-yellow-green traffic light until after I left for college?!! I had to buy it an read it - not expecting anything.But, lo and behold, it held up. Not a great book, but a well=written story dealing with a real family in the border state of Maryland dealing with competing sympathies in the Civil War. I enjoyed it more than I would have otherwise becasue of the descriptions of places I know from my childhood; but it was still better than a lot of other books I've read that got a broader audience and more acclaim.

  • Mundi
    2018-11-19 19:46

    This story starts with a bang as a woman named Martha shoots and kills her former lover Nick, and then the rest of the book goes back in time to recount the events that led up to the shooting. I found the first half of this book to be a real page-turner, but in the last half the book lost momentum and much of my interest. The book is told from a number of different viewpoints, the lengthiest sections belonging to the central characters of Martha and Nick, and it was in Nick's section that the story seemed to lose it's dramatic drive & focus. Perhaps I was just expecting some sort of explosive event that would cause such a violent reaction in Martha but instead I found the whole thing rather anti-climactic.

  • Sara
    2018-11-21 20:55

    I was turned on to this book when it became one of our book club selections. The story is written in first person from many different people's perspectives. The backdrop is just after the Civil War ends and the location is just on the border of the North and South. I found the cultural backdrop interesting - even families divided in their loyalties, and the struggles to move ahead with the drastic political, cultural, economic changes of the day. The has story has a woman walking in to a bar and killing a man point blank in front of the whole town. Then it goes back in time to learn of their relationship - the woman's family has strong Southern ties, the man was a h a Captain in the Union army, and how they succeed and fail at navigating the complexities. Definitely recommend!

  • Jenny
    2018-11-21 21:45

    I was interested in this book because the main character's brother (G. Richard Cairnes) was among the known associates of John Wilkes Booth and mentioned in Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer. The book was divided into 3 parts: Martha Jane's perspective up to a point, her fiancee's perspective continuing the story, and the trial. I really enjoyed the historical parts, Martha Jane's story, the trial, and the family history link at the end. I could have done without the "male perspective" of her fiancee which seemed to be only about one thing.... It kind of ruined the book for me.

  • Linda
    2018-11-12 17:01

    This historical fiction is based on the life of real people and events. It is set just after the Civil War in an around Jarrettsville, Maryland in Harford County. The book deals with the events surrounding the death of Nicholas McComas who was killed by his jilted fiance.Though interesting, the author's characterizations of the people was hard to believe. Both seemed truly unable to communicate with the other and this lack of communication lead to murder. It would have been easier to believe had there been real conflict between the two. Of course, the author doesn't know what actually happened between the two but her unwillingness to fill in the blanks makes the characters seem unreal. Even so, the portrayal of life in post-Civil War Maryland is interesting in it's own end.

  • Joanne
    2018-11-20 19:48

    Based on a true event at the end of the Civil War in Maryland - Martha Jane Cairne's murder of her lover - this book captures the complexity of post-war life in a state where neighbors - or family members - could be Union- or Confederate-sympathizers. Nixon starts with Cairne's murder of her lover, Nicholas McComas, and then backtracks to fill in the story. Cairnes is so likeable (Nicholas not always so) that despite knowing the outcome, I wanted things to be different for her. Nixon paints a picture of what it is like to be a woman in love with the "wrong" man at that place and time, and there is an inevitability to the end of their happiness. Evocative of Cold Mountain.

  • Heather
    2018-11-16 19:09

    Historical fiction isn't always something I'm drawn to, but this true-story-inspired novel did an excellent job of vividly capturing a specific place and time (near the Mason-Dixon line, just after the end of the Civil War), and of maintaining suspense throughout. That's no small feat given that the book begins with a climactic murder, and then goes back to tell the backstory, finally ending with the aftermath of the crime. Nixon also uses multiple points of view to maximum effect (a technique I've seen mangled by other writers). A recommended read, especially for people interested in Civil War era history.

  • Rebecca
    2018-12-03 19:07

    This is historical fiction about the author's distant ancestor who killed her fiance after the Civil War. The thing I liked the most about the story was how it potrayed very intimately how families were torn apart by the war...literally brothers fought brothers. The main character is a Confederate sympathizer but falls in love with a Union soldier. The dialouge was often akward and I felt that the author dragged out the last third of the book. However, I felt that the author really gave the reader an insight into just how divided the country was at the time. The history was interesting to me.

  • Sarah
    2018-12-06 23:04

    I really enjoyed this book, which is part historical fiction, part love story, part courtroom drama. The town of Jarrettsville is not far from where I live, and the book initially grabbed my attention because of the name. It takes place in rural Maryland right after the Civil War- very close to the Mason/Dixon line and an area that was very divided between Union & Confederate loyalties. Nixon took her family's story & fleshed it out beautifully, taking time to develop the characters of Martha Jane & Nick and give us a hint at what it might have been like to live under the societal pressures of the Reconstruction Era.

  • Faith
    2018-11-29 22:50

    Having moved to Jarrettsville in Harford COunty at the age of thirteen, I found this very exciting. Knowing the places the author talked of, being able to place where each event (or almost each) happened was really cool. I had no idea that anything like this had happened in this small town and to know that I know some of the families was neat. I'm glad I got to hear the author and meet her when she came to the Jarrettsville branch of the library. I also met some of her relatives and saw some personal photos brought by some of them. It was a great read even without having lived in the area, that just made it all the more interesting on a personal level.

  • Lisa
    2018-11-18 20:53

    Jarrettsville by Cornelia Nixon is a novel based on an incident in Nixon's family history just after the Civil War in Maryland below the Mason-Dixon line. Martha Jane Cairnes, a willful, stubborn, beautiful young woman shoots her estranged lover six times in front of 50 witnesses. The story starts there and then goes back to the beginning. We learn the story from various points of view - the doctor, cousins, brothers, sister-in-laws, Martha's and the lover, Nick's. It is a tightly written page turner, of a time in the country when emotions on both sides of the line were raw, when sides were still sharply delineated and trust was fragile between families.

  • Cathy
    2018-12-09 20:03

    This is one small community in Harford county Maryland after the Civil War, but it encapsulates the experience of former slaves and their owners, men returning from war, the way a civil war in a slave state that fought on the northern side wasn't over when the peace treaty was signed. It shows how hatreds simmered for years in communities with both northern and southern sympathizers. The expected role of "ladies" and their sexuality or supposed lack of it is also at the heart of the story.So much to discuss...

  • Elizabeth
    2018-11-12 17:54

    Sad...I liked the two central characters initially but in the end they made really bad/dumb choices. Why didn't they ever talk to each other?I was hoping her family (mother & brother) would somehow end up suffering long drawn-out horrible deaths. In this case, life wasn't fair. I was cheering for the freed slaves and was always disappointed when they were abused again. Thus repeating the 'life isn't fair' theme for me. I did like the book and I was affected by the topic and view points...I made me think.

  • Chad
    2018-11-14 21:43

    This would be a great selection for a book club. The book is well written, but it tended to drag during Martha's segment. There are numerous discussion points throughout and the ones that interested me most were (1) interactions between Rebel-friendly Marylanders and their neighbors who were abolitionists (2) treatment of black Northern soliders after they returned from fighting for their country (3) norms regarding women and sex (4) Male-domination of society and how women's minds were "fragile" and shouldn't be educated.

  • Susan
    2018-11-19 22:57

    Really liked this book. Love historical fiction and the Civil War is one of my favorite eras. Found the beginning a bit confusing (probably reading late at night) but hung in and loved the love story, the history of Maryland at the end of the war and the tensions still going on between North and South. The talk about the Negroes and how the Southerners felt about them was graphic, but of course so very true of the times. So sad to have the love story end in such a way, and for a woman to be so driven to have to actually do the deed was a sad commentary of the time.