Stranger in Savannah

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

STRANGER IN SAVANNAH charts the course of the lives of the Browning, Mackay, and Stiles families as they cope with the tension of the events leading up to the Civil War and then the horror of wartime. Eugenia Price uses the technique of dinnertime conversation to air the differing opinions of Northerners and Southerners. Mark Browning is a Northerner who loves Savannah but hates slavery--yet he is married to a Southerner who owns slaves, Caroline. Their daughter, Natalie Browning Latimer, does not care about political issues one way or another; her main concern is that the people she loves should not be hurt--by war or anything else. when her best friend, Mary Cowper Stiles, is forced to marry Andrew Low, a rich British merchant to whom her father owes money, instead of her true love Stuart Elliott, Natalie does everything in her power to persuade Mary Cowper to elope. Out of respect for her parents, however, Mary Cowper marries Low. It is to Mark Browning, William Mackay, and Miss Eliza Mackay (William’s mother and Mark Browning’s close friend) that the heartbroken young Elliott turns. Miss Eliza, in fact, becomes the backbone of the novel, keeping Mark Browning from feeling an isolated abolitionist when the war starts, and also comforting Mary Cowper.

Browning’s love for the city of Savannah is the true theme of the book, not the Civil War or the society of the time. History does play a large part in the book, though, held together as it is by a loose web of fictionalized dialogue. Descriptions of antebellum and Civil War Savannah, and Georgia in general, are plentiful. Historical figures such as Robert E. Lee, Charles Green, William Makepeace Thackeray, and Robert McAlpin Goodman visit the characters of STRANGER IN SAVANNAH. Even the Stiles and Markay families are based on historical figures, and the letter decrying Mary Cowper’s forced marriage is taken from an actual document from that time. STRANGER IN SAVANNAH’s real strength lies in its meticulous research and warm characterizations.