‘Winter, a boy’, is a novel written by Basil Lucas published in 2010. Although this book is a work of fiction, the title comes from the name of a real boy. Winter, a boy, was a slave listed in the inheritance left to the widow of Lucas’ great-grandfather, Dr. George Bird, in his will. What Lucas has done is taken a kernel of truth and woven it into the tale of a slave boy named Winter. “When I saw that unusual name in that will it just captured me. I wondered what that person was like,“ said Lucas. He first saw the will about five years ago but didn’t begin writing it immediately. “I kind of let my imagination work on it,“ he said. Lucas commented that the book “is dedicated to the people who came out of slavery. My ancestors had slaves, which I am not proud of. I wanted to pay tribute to them and what they endured.” In fact a tribute is included on the inside cover of his novel.
The story begins in Georgia in the year of 1858 with the young slave boy, Winter, working for his owner Miss Martha Bird. Miss Martha teaches Winter to read and write, although it is against the law. As the Civil War wages closer and closer to the area, Winter wonders about trying to escape but decides to make the best of it with his kindly owner. But when Winter accidentally gets caught in some crossfire from the war and gets a brief taste of freedom, he can’t get it off his mind. As Lucas describes what Winter was feeling: “he began to identify the hunger that had been gnawing inside him for years. He had just not known what the feeling was, like a boy who didn’t know what a butterfly was if he had never seen one, but once he saw one, he knew he had seen something grand.“
He decides to run away carrying only a few items. Among them are his speller and his Bible from which he learned to read and write. He places a rose stolen from Miss Martha’s garden within the Bible pages. He volunteers his services to a Union regiment doing wash, cooking and foraging for food. When the war finally ends Winter finds himself a freedman in Savannah and soon discovers that reading and writing is a valuable skill he has to offer. Winter acquires his first paying job and becomes one of the first black school teachers. Winter later gets permission to study the law books of Governor Alexander Stephens, who is one of the characters in the novel based on a real person.
Lucas commented about his novel that “ the time period is that of the Reconstruction era in the South when black people were elected to the state legislature and the South was under the watch of the US Army. It was a very unstable time in which Winter was trying to be a responsible citizen.”
Throughout the novel, Winter’s character shows great perseverance to attain his dreams in the face of adversity. Lucas’ book keeps the reader engaged and rooting for Winter through his entire journey and wondering what he will do next to overcome the difficulties he faces. Lucas’ writing is interesting and filled with intriguing metaphors like the rose motif which he uses throughout the story. Interestingly enough, the rose was already a part his novel when Lucas discovered an old painting of a boy smelling a rose. The painting was done by his nephews’ wife’s grandmother, Stella Maude Parsons around 1898. Lucas knew as soon as he saw the painting of the boy holding a rose that it belonged on the cover of his book.
Basil Lucas has written four novels and several plays. He wrote his first play in the seventh grade. He teaches the occasional writing class at Bainbridge College in the town of Bainbridge, Georgia where he lives with his wife Phyllis. Both are also painters. Lucas belongs to two writing groups. The River Writers is based out of Bainbridge, GA and publishes a quarterly journal called the Firehouse. His other group has been meeting for 20 years and is made up of gentleman that he studied with at Emory out of Oxford, Georgia.. Lucas’ novels ’Miracle Enough’ and ’Love Me, Love Me Not’ are still in draft form. His novels, ‘Winter, a boy“ and ‘Our Secrets‘ can be obtained by contacting Basil Lucas at 293 Rivervale Drive, Bainbridge, GA 39817, 229-246-0224 or firstname.lastname@example.org.