Week 1: Enemy Women Read-a-Long

This is week one of the Enemy Women by Paulette Jiles read-a-long.  Each of us had to read the prologue and chapters 1-6.

Do you think the prologue was necessary? Why or Why not?

S:  I’m not sure that the prologue added anything to my reading of the book thus far, except as a way to provide background to the action.  The textbook-like language did that section an injustice, and I don’t think the author needed that section to demonstrate the confusion and dangerousness of the time.  To be honest, I didn’t find it memorable and barely remember it.

A: I’m going to have to disagree with you.  I know next to nothing about the Civil War, especially all that went on in the Ozarks, so I found that prologue interesting, and it set the stage for the events that followed.  However, I will agree that there was a textbook feel to the writing, but that sort of goes with the excerpts from historical documents and books at the beginning of every chapter.

What are your first impressions of the main character, Adair Colley?

S:  I think she’s a bit naive about how things in war work and she’s very impetuous.  She seems to just jump with her emotions and doesn’t think too much about her actions.  It’s no wonder that she gets arrested and sent to jail by the Union militia.  Part of her problem is that she’s so young and woefully uneducated in some ways, but during that time, what did women need to know about war?

A: I agree that she’s impetuous, but I like that about her.  She seems like a very strong girl, and she’ll need that strength to endure her imprisonment.  I like that she will stand up for herself, but she does have a lot to learn.  I don’t think her naivety is all because she’s a woman, though; she’s only 18, and I remember how I thought I knew everything at that age but actually knew very little about life.

The correspondence at the beginning of each chapter provides background to the fighting.  How do you think that will figure into the overall plot or what is its purpose?

S:  I’ve really enjoyed the correspondence at the beginning of each chapter a little more than the prologue.  It could be the authenticity of the letters with their misspellings or the less than textbook-like language.  It is like the letters and messages give you an insider’s look at both sides of the war, which is a fresh backdrop to the action in the book, especially given that Missouri appears to be caught in the middle of both sides.

A: I think they help to show that Adair’s story could very well have happened.  Using actual correspondence and testimony makes the story more authentic, and then Adair’s story personalizes the whole situation for the reader.

What questions did you have?  What did you think?  Feel free to answer these questions in the comments and even pose your own.  We’d love to discuss the book with you!


  1. I can’t wait to see what everyone thinks so far. I read this book for the first time several years ago, but I guess I forgot all about it because it was like reading a new book. 🙂

  2. I can’t wait to see what people think so far and what questions they pose.

  3. I have to be really honest, I found the prologue so boring I skipped it. I think I may have to go back though, which is what I normally do. I love the correspondence at the beginning of each chapter. And I know I’m really tired but I was under the impression that Adair was much younger than 18. Wouldn’t she have been married off by then in those days? Where did it tell us that? I missed it completely.

  4. In chapter 1, in the second paragraph of the narrative, it says, “Adair Colley had just turned eighteen in early November of 1864 when the Union Militia…”

    I know she mentioned something about marriage being on the horizon but I have no idea at what age girls were normally married back then.

  5. Irene: I think I missed it too. I thought the last age reference was Adair was age 8…then it was a few years that had passed, so I thought maybe she was about 11. Maybe Anna can pinpoint the age 18 reference. I think she seems a little too naive for age 18.

  6. Thanks for the info. Anna!

  7. No prob! I think the first couple of chapters were confusing with the movement back and forth in time. First we’re given a glimpse of the Union Militia attacking the family, and then we go back to before the war when she gets the horse, then we go back to the present.

  8. I agree, that back and forth in time is a bit confusing…probably why I forgot how old she was….in the “present”

  9. I think it’s mentioned that Little Mary is 12 and Savannah is 15, but please correct me if I’m wrong.

  10. In the second paragraph of chapter one (on page 9 of my copy of the book), it states, “Adair Colley had just turned eighteen in early November of 1864 when the Union Militia arrested her father and tried to set the house on fire.”

    I read the prologue and found it helpful as background information, but was glad it was fairly short, since it was pretty dry.

    I agree that Adair seems both naive and impetuous, which seems to fit in with her age and the times.

    The correspondence at the beginning of the chapters is helpful in providing more background information.

  11. Hi Cheryl! It sounds like you and I feel the same about the book so far. I agree that it’s a good thing the prologue is short!

  12. The dry textbook language made me forget the prologue!

  13. I posted mine on my blog:

    But to sum it up..I thought the prologue was necessary but torture to get through. The book is moving slow for me so far…think I just need to get in the groove of the writing style. I’m not fully connected with Adair yet. I like that she’s so strong..but feel like she’s making a lot of poor choices. Oh..and I love the correspondance at the beginning of each chapter. I think it helps me understand the story better because I can tie it together.

  14. I personally liked the prologue because although I have read a lot on the war, I was not well versed on the situation in Mo. I had no problem with it being tutorial. In fact, I do not find the regular chapters to be particularly awesome literary-wise.

    I like the excerpts at the beginngs of the chapter, but they strike me as being a way for Jiles to prove she did a lot of research. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I can not find much connection between the excerpts and then what happens in the chapter.

    I would think that it would have been very unusual for a girl of her looks and family to be unwed at age 18. Jiles would have been better off making her 16.

    A 120 mile walk through snow really defies credulity. Why add the snow? The Odyssey-like people they meet like Greasy John were interesting, however.

    After hitting Cloris with the flaming stick, I am wondering exactly how much Red Bull Adair has access to. She better not ever need to sleep.

    I like Adair. She is feisty.

  15. I have to agree with warmoviebuff that the writing is not particularly awesome literary-wise. In fact, one of the things I really disliked about the book was that there were a lot of incomplete sentences throughout. There were some connections between the excerpts and the chapters, but not many.

  16. I was struggling to pay attention given the writing style to be honest, but Adair is interesting.

  17. I agree with others that the prologue is necessary but dry. I’ve read other books with similar prologues that have managed to keep the information engaging and readable. I’m afraid I don’t really care for Adair, although I can’t pinpoint why. I’ve enjoyed other spitfire female lead characters like the girl in True Grit, but I’m wondering if there’s just not enough characterization to support her personality? She’s just coming across as bratty and foolish to me. Maybe she’ll grow on me. What I do like about the book so far is the general story and a completely new-to-me part of Civil War history.

  18. Does anyone else have a problem with Jiles’ refusal to use quotation marks when characters are talking? She might consider it avante-garde, but I dislike having to concentrate on what I am reading. It slows the flow down.

  19. Warmoviebuff,
    Yes! I can’t believe I didn’t mention it before because it’s really been bugging me. I remember reading The Road and lack of quotation marks not bothering me, but in this case it doesn’t work. And I have to go back and reread sometimes to figure out what should have been in quotes.

  20. I have to agree with Shelley on this..I enjoyed The Road and the lack of quotation marks didn’t bother me in that, but it is bothering me here.

  21. I agree that the writing isn’t very literary, and I also agree that the historical excerpts at the beginning of the chapters have little connection to the story. I think Jiles is trying to show more of the Missouri experience and that women were often held prisoner. Like I said before though, I think the prologue is interesting and necessary, more so than the other historical bits.

    I also wondered how the girls survived that trek and in the snow, and without Adair to guide them, I’m wondering whether the other two made it to where they were supposed to go.

  22. Oh, and the lack of quotation marks bothers me with this book. It really makes it confusing as to what is being said and what is not. I haven’t had that experience with other books, like The Road, so I’m not quite sure what is different about it here.

  23. http://sillylittlemischief.blogspot.com/2011/08/week-one-of-enemy-women-readalong.html

    Here are my response to the questions. Really enjoying the book so far!

  24. Thanks for taking part, Linda! Off to read your thoughts now.

  25. Thanks for taking part, Kris! I’ve got your comment up now; for some reason it was in the spam folder. Good thing I spotted your post already on Google Reader. 😉

  26. Thanks, Linda, for answering the questions and joining the read-a-long. Kris, also thanks for joining. I too am having issues with the writing style.

  27. I have to agree about the lack of quotation marks. Sometimes it really works for a book..other times it doesn’t. Unfortunately, this is one of those times. At least..so far. I think that could be one of the reasons a lot of us are having trouble really getting into the story too.

  28. […] Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 […]

  29. […] do check out the discussion for the read-a-long on War Through the Generations if you’ve read the […]

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