Ella

A Tale of Love, War and Redemption

Fiction - Historical - Personage
264 Pages
Reviewed on 03/25/2021
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Edith Wairimu for Readers' Favorite

Ella: A Tale of Love, War and Redemption by David Hess is a compelling historical novel that brings to life the trauma, devastation, and hope that followed the American Civil War. In 1863, Nicholas Haff begins his journey back to Herronville, Pennsylvania after surviving the tragic Battle of Gettysburg. The hope of returning to his childhood love, Ella, has carried him through the war. But the man returning home is not the man who left. Despite everything remaining the same as he had left it in his home, deep down Nicholas knows that the war has changed the man he was before. Ella has also suffered atrocities of her own. As they help each other heal, a devastating family secret and a heart-breaking disaster destroy their hope of ever being together. Nicholas moves forward surrounded by the brokenness caused by the war. His path leads to many unforeseen twists but he remains hopeful that he will find love again.

The horrors of war and the psychological and physical damage the Civil War leaves behind are evident in David Hess’s novel, Ella. The book effectively explores both internal and external conflict through its main characters. Nicholas struggles with PTSD from the war while Ella is battling physical trauma. The protagonists are likable and inspiring. They face their circumstances with resilience and hope. On the other hand, the antagonists bring out the brutality and effects of the war. The plot is marked by many unexpected events which make it engrossing. In the end, Nicholas encourages the reconciliation between soldiers from different sides of the war, introducing another critical theme into the story. Ella: A Tale of Love, War and Redemption is a poignant historical novel with many surprising twists.

Jon Michael Miller

First, there was Scarlet O’Hara, and now, in Ella by David Hess, we have Nicholas Haff. Ella is an engaging two-part historical novel set during the Civil War and its grim aftermath. We meet young Nicolas Haff just after the Battle of Gettysburg, having been mustered out and wending his way home to northeast Pennsylvania. He has an infected eye and has just served with the nearly decimated Pennsylvania 151st at Cemetery Hill. We learn his backstory from his remembrances throughout the novel. His first deep love is with Ella, a childhood neighbor who flirted with him by serving him lemonade on his way to and fro. Just before their real courtship begins, Nicholas volunteers for the infantry even though he doesn’t support the war. Then as he treads his way home, he meets the beautiful Beatrice, who lost her husband in the battle and is raising three small children. She nurses his eye, and they listen to Lincoln deliver his famous address. She is unforgettable for Nicholas.

In Ella, author Hess gives us a realistic portrait of life during and after the Civil War, and it’s not a pretty picture. Pus runs out of Nicholas’s eye, and he struggles on foot without food and with the constant stench of the dead and wounded in war. And the population is morally and spiritually wounded. Homeward bound, Nicholas is now motivated by love, and whether he finds fulfillment is the central thread of this powerful historical tale. Nicholas must deal not only with the damage of the war but with profound personal loss at home. You will engage with his wandering plight because of Hess’s superb storytelling instincts. He creates suspense that keeps you turning the pages. And at just the right times, he hits you with a surprise that gets you out of your seat. Ella is both a portrait of a dreadful national era and an intense personal biography. Hess paints the panorama with moving realism, pinpoint description, precise character development, and spot on dialogue. David Hess’s Ella is writing at its best, a must-have companion to Gone with the Wind.

Jennifer Ibiam

Ella: A Tale of Love, War and Redemption by David Hess is a historical novel that will appeal to readers interested in war stories. In the 1840s, Nicholas Haff left Herronville to join the fight between the north and the south. He left Ella, his childhood sweetheart, behind, hoping to come back for her. He did but without one of his eyes. Nicholas also came home with burning anger and suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from his ordeal during the war, but he loved his Ella. Unfortunately, more tragedies had happened in his absence. Ella had experienced a wicked betrayal from a supposed protector which will change many things. This situation, coupled with the bond that they shared, will lead to the disentangling of a web of lies. Can Ella and Nicholas’s love stand the test of time?

Ella by David Hess is a fantastic and thought-provoking historical novel. Without being too dramatic, I advise you get a tissue to dab your tears while you read this book. It explored themes like fanaticism, deceit, hypocrisy, infidelity, courage, integrity, hope, despair, and more. The plot had great depth, and it’s not surprising, seeing that it mirrored the United States of America in the 1840s. Many of us read about the war but didn’t experience it, hence are ignorant of the scars it left, even after it ended. The character development was superb, especially Nicholas’s and Lucy’s. Lucy was the strongest, bravest, and most resilient of all. I loved seeing her blossom from her disguise into a swan. I loved the documentary method of writing, which made the story easy to follow. David is such a talented storyteller, and I thoroughly enjoyed the book.