Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule

by Jennifer Chiaverini

Paperback, 2016




Dutton (2016), Edition: Reprint, 432 pages


"The New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker and Mrs. Lincoln's Rival imagines the inner life of Julia Grant, beloved as a Civil War general's wife and the First Lady, yet who grappled with a profound and complex relationship with the slave who was her namesake-until she forged a proud identity of her own. In 1844, Missouri belle Julia Dent met dazzling horseman Lieutenant Ulysses S Grant. Four years passed before their parents permitted them to wed, and the groom's abolitionist family refused to attend the ceremony. Since childhood, Julia owned as a slave another Julia, known as Jule. Jule guarded her mistress's closely held twin secrets: She had perilously poor vision but was gifted with prophetic sight. So it was that Jule became Julia's eyes to the world. And what a world it was, marked by gathering clouds of war. The Grants vowed never to be separated, but as Ulysses rose through the ranks-becoming general in chief of the Union Army-so did the stakes of their pact. During the war, Julia would travel, often in the company of Jule and the four Grant children, facing unreliable transportation and certain danger to be at her husband's side. Yet Julia and Jule saw two different wars. While Julia spoke out for women-Union and Confederate-she continued to hold Jule as a slave behind Union lines. Upon the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, Jule claimed her freedom and rose to prominence as a businesswoman in her own right, taking the honorary title Madame. The two women's paths continued to cross throughout the Grants' White House years in Washington, DC, and later in New York City, the site of Grant's Tomb. Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule is the first novel to chronicle this singular relationship, bound by sight and shadow"--… (more)


½ (43 ratings; 3.9)

User reviews

LibraryThing member brangwinn
In her well-researched fictional accounts of Civil War women, continues to weave the story of relationships between black servants and their white employers/masters. The books need not be ready in order of publishing, but I was glad I read Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker and Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival
Show More
before I read this account of Ulysses S. Grant’s wife and her slave Jule. I appreciated how she told both the point of view of Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Grant in the battlefield visit to Richmond. My admiration for President Lincoln continues to rise as he had so many challenges with his temperamental wife. I thought this book did superb job of showing how white southern women saw their household help as “servants” and not “slaves, and were unable to understand how blacks could be unhappy. As in the other books the story of the maid, Jule, who later escaped slavery and became a successful hairdresser was poignant.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Pattymclpn
Why are there so few reviews here? This is good historical fiction!!

This is an insightful look at the difficulties presented when a southern belle falls in love with a man of the Union. We see changes brought about in both the North and the South and the free and the slave population. I liked that
Show More
Jule became an independent successful business woman. We learn much about Julia, Jule and President Grant. Julia and Jule’s story alternate back and forth and parallel each other. This brings out the contrast between the two women. The end of the book spotlights General Grant and we get a feel for how he was not only a great general, but a great person.

The book is written in the same familiar style as her other books. It is like sitting down with an old friend. I feel that this is certainly just as good as her other books!! It was exactly what I would have expected from her!!! If you have the chance read some of her other books as well they are all great!!! I give this book a 4 out of 5 stars!!!
Show Less
LibraryThing member ChristineEllei
MRS. GRANT AND MADAM JULE by Jennifer Chiaverini

* I received this ebook at no charge from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review *

When a young Lieutenant Ulysses S. Grant first began courting Julia Dent everyone agreed that they made an unlikely match. He was a northern abolitionist and she was
Show More
a southern Missouri belle who personally owned a slave. He was tall, slim and handsome while she was (self described) dumpy, plain and had one crossed eye resulting in poor sight. But, love is blind, and against all the nay-sayers they wed. As his star began to rise during the Civil War Julia followed him from state to state offering constant support, love and sometimes advice. Despite the fact that he was fighting to eliminate slavery, quite often Julia’s slave Jule accompanied Julia on these treks to offer her services as ladies maid and nanny to the children.

Ulysses was not fond of this arrangement, but because he loved his wife, he allowed it.

Julia did not see anything wrong with having Jule by her side.

Jule, growing increasingly more aware of the rights of “colored people”, was waiting for an opportune time to run.

This book tells the story of these three historical figures against the backdrop of the Civil War. If one looks at this book as a historical text Ms. Chiaverini does a commendable job of incorporating all the important elements of what was happening in the last half of the 1800’s and introducing her readers to all the pertinent players from President Lincoln on down. At one point or another throughout the book she hits upon the current events of the time either as an accurate accounting or using one generalized event meant to portray any number of similar events of the era. She gives us highlights of Civil War battles without going into reenactment-worthy detail.

Of course, this book is not a historical text it is historical fiction so, although fact based and well researched, Ms. Chiaverini has taken some liberties to make this into the very readable book that it is. As Ms. Chiaverini states in her acknowledgments …

“Many events and people appearing in the historical record have been omitted from this book for the sake of the narrative. Although the lives of Ulysses and Julia Grant are well documented, almost nothing exists about Jule beyond a few brief mentions in Julia Grant’s memoirs. Thus her life as depicted in this story is almost entirely imagined.”

And quite an imagination it is. It was a wonderful story – beautifully told – that even had me a little misty eyed at the end.

This book is the story of a man who refused to ever retrace his steps and kept moving forward to achieve his personal goals and other “goals” thrust upon him.

This is a book is the story of a runaway slave who through grit and determination makes a success of herself in post-emancipation America.

But mostly, this book is the love story of two people who seemed unsuited to each other and yet despite differing political and personal opinions, through a long and bloody war, made it work.

When I read the book description I knew I wanted to read the story of Julia and Jule but somehow it kept being put aside in favor of other books. I finally decided to pluck it off my virtual ereader shelf and start reading. Once I started I did not want to put the book down. I have noticed that Ms. Chiaverini has a few other works of historical fiction centering on figures from the same time period that were on the sidelines in “Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule”. I enjoyed Ms. Chiaverini’s writing of historical fiction so much with this entry that I have already added the others to my TBR list.
Show Less
LibraryThing member JCGirl
I enjoyed this book, but I have enjoyed all of Jennifer Chiaverini books. She takes historical figures and makes them likable and human. I always enjoy reading about the Civil War and even know though it is fiction I found Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule to be one of the best of Chiaverini's books.
LibraryThing member nicolewbrown
An intriguing fictionalized look at two formidable women: Mrs. Ulysses Grant and her slave maid, Madame Jule.
LibraryThing member Kris_Anderson
Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule by Jennifer Chiaverini is a novel based on the life of Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant (Julia) and her slave, Jule. The novel starts in 1834 (prologue) and then jumps ahead ten years to the spring of 1844.

Julia Dent grew up in Missouri. Her father was a slave owner. When Julia was
Show More
four years old, she was presented with Julia (they had the same name). Julia was a ginger colored slave. Since they had the same name, Julia changed her maid’s name to Jule. The Dent’s country home was near Jefferson Barracks which housed soldiers. Ulysses, a recent graduate of West Point, was stationed at Jefferson Barracks. Ulysses came from an abolitionist family in Ohio. Despite their differences Julia and Ulys (as Julia called him) fell in love. Despite her father’s reluctance (he did not think that Ulysses could provide for Julia nor did he think that she would like military life) the two married.

Jule grew up with Julia and learned how to read, write (despite the laws to the contrary), dress hair, and make special concoctions (for hair and skin). Jule was in love with Gabriel, the groom. However, she would not marry him for fear that she would have to leave him when Julia married Ulysses. After Julia marries Jule is told that she will not be going with her mistress. Ulysses has been stationed at a posting where there is no room for servants. Jule had always hoped that when Julia married Ulysses values would rub off on Julia. Jule’s primary goal was her freedom.

The book goes on to describe Ulysses’ career, Julia’s and Ulysses marriage, children, the Civil War, and life in the White House, and their later years. Julia’s views on slaves did not change for a long time. She viewed slaves as necessary to the function of a household and the lifestyle Julia was accustomed to. Julia thought slaves liked having a home provided for them as well as clothes and food despite Jule’s attempts to explain how she felt about slavery.

Jule was lucky enough to run away from Julia during a trip and received help escaping to Washington City (Washington D.C.). Jule found success as a hairdresser as well as making and selling her salves, lotions, and tonics. Jule ended up living her life in Brooklyn, New York.

I have tried to give you a brief (as brief as I get) overview of the book without giving away any spoilers. I give Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule 4.5 stars out of 5. It is a exceptional book with incredible writing, but I did not find it as satisfying as The Elm Creek Quilt series. I also wished the book had written more about Jule. The main focus of the book is Julia and Ulysses Grant. Jennifer Chiaverini is a master storyteller and Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule will keep your eyes riveted to its pages. This book can easily be read without reading the previous three books: Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival, and The Spymistress. Ms. Chiaverini’s next book is Christmas Bells: A Novel. It will be released on October 27, 2015 (according to

I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Iambookish
First of all this title is totally misleading, as it's really a chronological history of Julie Grant and her husband the general. There are moments when her life and that of her slave Jule collide, but they are far and few between. The book started out with such promise, but soon grew boring when
Show More
it didn't delve deep enough into the title characters, and became more like a dry non-fiction history of the civil war. I know a lot of people that will pick this up thinking it's going to be a great fictionalized novel of a historical figure, but I think most will be disappointed once they start reading.
Show Less
LibraryThing member GirlWellRead
A special thank you to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I found this book rather dull, and the writing seemed a little basic. It read more as two separate books, one of which was regurgitating facts from the civil war battles, a topic which is not of any interest to me. I was
Show More
hoping for more from the story of the women in the title, that was the part of the story that I enjoyed and wanted more of. Perhaps the author was trying to do too much in the span of the novel.
Show Less
LibraryThing member cherybear
Covers the life of Julia (Dent) Grant, wife of Civil War General (and later President) Ulysses Grant. She was raised in Missouri, and her family owned slaves. In particular, she was very close at one time to "her" slave, also named Julia, but called Jule. In this fictional account, Julia never
Show More
perceived as slavery as wrong, or as an integral part of the Civil War. She supported her husband, but felt the secession of the South the only reason for the war. She brings Jule to live with her family in many of the places they go, including often very close to the battles. Eventually, after the Emancipation Proclamation, Jule simply leaves, and starts her own life styling women's hair, and creating and marketing lotions and creams for women. Jule and Julia never reconcile, although many years later Julia seems to come to realize the wrongs of slavery.
The book is much more than the story of Jule and Julia, especially that of "Ulys" and Julia, and of course the war and the battles. But I enjoyed the exploration of Julia's attitude toward slavery, and especially how it eventually evolved.
Show Less
LibraryThing member m.belljackson
This book provides a succinct history of the career of Ulysses S. Grant, which is fortunate
since the premise of the two women interacting goes pretty flat.

And why? Mrs. Grant remains at heart a southern sympathizer, even to being ready to send a "constable"
to retrieve her family's slave, formerly
Show More
her childhood companion, when she and her abolitionist husband
venture up north to Ohio from Missouri.

While the Love Conquers All theme was apparently both historical and, as depicted here, fiction,
there is no accounting for how Grant could have fallen for a woman who brings a slave to
accompany them. Why did he not buy her freedom from Julia's cruel father?

And why did Julia chose to be so flagrantly dense and unfeeling?

Jule's reunion with her long lost husband was over-quick and unconvincing,
as was her ongoing refusal to meet with Julia, if only to see if being the wife
of President Grant and a part of his abolitionist family and friends had enlightened her.

At the least, she could have requested an audience with Ulysses and
presented him with some of her famous bottles for his wife.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Briars_Reviews
Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule is a riveting drama that follows the lives of Julia, a young and wealthy woman, and Jule, her slave.

If I had to limit this book's description to two words, I would call it a historical drama. Typically, I am not a fan of books like this but somehow Jennifer Chiaverini
Show More
made me feel attached to these characters. I lost my drive partway through this novel, but I couldn't help myself to jump back in to know the ending of this story.

I felt this book followed Julia more than Jule, but somehow it felt right that there was one star of the show. I would have liked to follow Jule and Gabriel's story a lot more (because I truly felt more attached to those characters than Mr. and Mrs. Grant), but Jennifer decided to follow Julia and her life more actively in the novel. Julia definitely had her flaws since Jennifer made sure to have the character not be the perfect, rich girl. I did appreciate that sentiment, because I'm a little tired of historical novels where the leads are utterly perfect and do no wrong. At times, I did find Julia to be the antagonist more than the protagonist, but that's merely because of her view of the world (which was very typical of the time).

I did not have much background on this book, so it amazed me that Julia and Ulysses Grant were real people! This story is a fictionalized version of their life, but it felt almost real. Due to this book being as interesting as it was, I decided to look up more about Julia and Ulysses Grant. To me, as a reader, I love when a book can open my eyes to a world I didn't realize existed or happened. I am not well versed in American history (since I am Canadian, and my schooling did not involve much of the USA's history), so I'm glad a book like this exists! In my opinion, this book does what I want a book to do - make readers more interested in the topic.

Is this book perfect? No. I felt there was some really slow parts of the book that drove me away from it. That being said, I like constant movement of the plot so the book isn't intended for an audience like me. It's a slow paced book that is about history. I also would have liked to see Julia and Jule interacting more as adults, since the book suggests it is about their relationship. If anything, the misleading title and synopsis are the worst parts of this book. Although, it's a fantastic read and I'd highly recommend it if you love historical fiction, fictionalized stories of real life events, a heartfelt drama, a splash of romance, civil war era books, or American history.

Overall, this book is well written and a nice story. I'd love to read more by Jennifer Chiaverini just to see if she can open my eyes to more historical stories.

Three out of five stars.

I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.
Show Less


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

7.98 inches


1101983833 / 9781101983836
Page: 0.2494 seconds