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am 21. Januar 1999
When I discovered that my cousin had written a book about our mutual great-great-uncle (our grandmother's grandfather's brother) I was intrigued, since I too grew up hearing the family stories, and especially those about Inman (his true family name, and my grandmother's maiden name). To my pleasant surprise, the book was astoundingly beautiful in form and especially compelling in the nature of word and sentence combinations. Ususally, I can speed read a book in a few hours, and I expected Cold Mountain to be a small diversion during a flight to Europe. Was I ever wrong! I spent several sessions over the next few days, reading and re-reading passages to savor the full impact of the complicated and sometimes obscure references. Fortunately, I grew up with the knowleged of the tools, etc. Charles mentions, and therefore, perhaps, have an even better appreciation of the descriptions than other readers. However, knowing as I do, the actual outcome of Inman's journey, I kept hoping that the author would somehow change the ending to one less shocking and sorrowful than befell the historical character; but alas, he did not, and Inman met his intended fate, once again, in fiction as well as fact. Bravo, cousin "Chuck!" Well done! Here's hoping you can produce more works of equal quality. Daniel A. Frazier.
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am 20. Juni 2000
I enjoyed this one up to about half way but then ran out of patience with it. The last half became a real struggle. The low rating is because it failed to live up to its early promise.
Inman's journey was for me the most interesting aspect. It shows us the normally unseen harsh and unpleasant side effects of the civil war with fascinating and sometimes repulsive detail. I am looking forward to seeing the movie 'Ride With The Devil' for another slant on the 'home guard'. The problem was that after a while his endless series of hair breadth escapes got a bit much for me. I could not identify with a man who seems to shrug off his daily near death experience and just keep trudging on.
Ada's exploration of farming life tended to become a grown-up 'Little House On The Prairie'.
Enjoy this book for its great description of the life and times but don't expect any plot progression or deep human insight.
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am 1. Januar 2000
This book came highly recommended to me by a close friend whose opinion I regard highly. And, of course, I had been exposed to all the hype. I was therefore shocked when I discovered it to be dull, repetitive, and riddled with cliches.
The prose is plodding, and I found it an effort to read. Having recently completed some supposedly "difficult" books, such as Underworld and Mason & Dixon, I was surprised at how difficult it was to wade through Frazier's lumpy, overstuffed prose.
The characters are cliches as well. Inman is the archetypical American loner, with an inner life of the approximate depth of an old John Wayne character. Virtually all the situations he confronts during his chapters involve his having to deal with cardboard "bad guys" straight out of a western. He copes with them with the unfailing competence of an old Clint Eastwood movie. He has no inner life worthy of the name. I know that he has PTSD, but it is clear from the flashback sections that he has always been inarticulate and distant. I found it extraordinarily hard to care what happens to him.
Even more troubling are the Ada/Ruby chapters. The chapter that I thought most interesting in the whole novel was Ada's first, in which her despair and desperation are deftly presented. Alas, Ruby shortly appears. She is the supremely intelligent illiterate so beloved of all anti-intellectuals. Not only is she masterfully competent at all aspects of running a farm (with no satisfactory explanation of how a desperately neglected child could learn so much), but her observations of nature are so keen that she independently works out Darwinian adaptation (cf. the scene in which she explains why dogwoods change color earlier than other trees). This anti-intellectual theme is very strong. Frazier is forceful in his contrast of Ada's pretentious, Emerson-obsessed father with the strong, simple wisdom of the country folk he encounters. What a tired theme! It's almost as over-worked as the idea that "war is hell." Gee, the Civil War was destructive to the social fabric of the United States! Imagine that!
I could go on, but I'm sure that this review will be offensive to Mr. Frazier's many admirers. I wish them well, and I am honestly happy for them that they found the book so rewarding. I considered one star, but I applaud any instance when a book that aspires to literature can interest so many people. I reserve one star for the utter trash that gluts most publisher's lists.
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am 11. Dezember 1999
I got this book for my wife for Christmas because I wanted her to learn more about my native North Carolina and, since it was described as a powerful romance, I figured she would read it. The Civil War side of it also attracted me to it. In our interests we are pretty much generic male and female.
I got more than I bargained for. My wife's first reaction as she began to get into the book was how beautifully written, how artful, how powerful it was. Then I noticed that as she got nearer to the end reading time began to intrude into time when she was supposed to be doing something else. She couldn't put it down until she had finished.
I picked it up as soon as she was done and enjoyed it at least as much as she did. The story starts a little slowly, but it gets more interesting with every page. In addition to the unexpected literary quality, what struck me was the authenticity of the characters in their manner of speech and behavior as well as the loving picture that Mr. Frazier paints of their hardscrabble, close-to-nature existence. Many of the expressions I heard from my older relatives as a boy I saw on the printed page here for the first time.
My father's paternal grandfather from the North Carolina foothills fought in Lee's army and was eventually captured at The Wilderness. His maternal grandfather, from the same region, according to family legend hid out in the mountains during the war and later served as a legislator in the carpetbag government in Raleigh. One of my father's earliest recollections, he told me, was listening to these two grandfathers arguing politics. Now I think I know a lot more about what they must have gone through in this very trying time.
Thank you, Charles Frazier.
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am 10. Dezember 1999
It is a shame that Cold Mountain was pitched as a Civil War novel because those who came to the book expecting either the battle focus of The Killer Angels or the Old South of Gone With The Wind were bound to be disappointed. Instead, Charles Frazier has written a book about that war's human cost, told in the form of one couple, torn apart and in the process of trying to come back together. Descriptive and slow in presentation - as Inman, the chief protagonist, walks his long journey home to Cold Mountain - the book allows us to absorb the effects of war as Inman and his love experience and remember them. For some of us, this was a wonderful and rewarding experience. For many, unfortunately, it seems to have been painful and without any redeeming qualities. Most of these negative reviews (at least here on Amazon.com) seem to be those of high school students who had to read the book for class. Their response goes beyond that of not liking the book, to a kind of overreaction that is, I think, instructive for those of us who enjoy reading. Not every book suites every taste - even the great books assumed to be classics - but my failing to appreciate, for example, The Great Gatsby, does not prompt me to dismiss it as 'the most BORING book ever published' or condemn Fitzgerald as having 'no common sense'. What one sees in these adolescent reviews is more than a response to the book in question. It seems more to be an angry reaction at having to spend the time to experience something outside their realm of expectation and experience - a reluctance to acknowledge that there could be any significance to a book they clearly don't understand - and see no reason why they should.
As for Tiffany, who proclaims that 'This book makes me wish I was illiterate', I have to say that in all probability you are. Being able to recognize words and their meanings is only the first step in literacy. Being willing to work with with a text - having patience with it when its meaning is not clear, giving a style or form of writing that is new enough time to become familiar - and having done this with enough literature to have some perspective on the variety of forms, styles, subjects, etc, so that judgements about quality are informed by knowledgable comparisons - now that is a more meaningful sense of literacy.
Finally, it is important to recognize that no book is either boring or exciting. The sense of excitemnt - or the boredom - are feelings experienced by individual readers at specific points in their lives. Many of my favorite books early on in my life would bore me to tears now and a number of books that I thought were tedious and dull (War and Peace is a good example) have become favorites that I can reread with pleasure. I can only hope that the teachers who assigned Cold Mountain helped their students who thought the book was dull to recognize where the dullness really lies. Cold Mountain may or may not be a 'great' book, but it deserves better than a simple dismissal for failing to deliver excitement in a predicatable form.
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am 7. November 1999
IF YOU'VE READ (or reviewed) this book and thought it was not good, OBVIOUSLY you've never been in a situation where your only desire was to find your way home. Inman was in this kind of situation at the end of the War Between the States.
Right after this book was released it was referred to as "the American Odyssey." This reference made me curious enough to purchase this book. I was glad to find out it was about the history that I was familiar with due to my interest in the American Civil War. Cold Mountain focuses on a different side of the war than I am used to reading about; it is focused on the internal life in a soldiers instead of his life on the battlefield.
Inman's only desire while on his struggle through the mountains was to maked it back to his beloved Cold Mountain and Ada. At the same time Ada was on her farm in the mountains of North Carolina trying to grow her daily bread from a farm that she didn't have the skills to run. Both stories are extremely heartbreaking.
I really loved this book, and I feel that it is worth reading again.There are many stories within the story that kept me glued to the book. I really felt that Inman would give up his journey and live with some of the people who he encountered on his trip home. This book will make you look at the life of a soldier in a different way. Too many books glorify war and show the manly side of fighting; this is not one of them. Inman fights and kills for his own survival, and in these fights YOU will want his enemies to die almost as much as Inman does.
Finding out that this book was based on a true story only added to the excitement of the book. This is the first book written by Charles Frazier. He will definitely have a great career in writing if he keeps writing like this.
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am 10. Oktober 1999
Publicity certainly can put a book on the best-seller list, I suppose. But this book is so unsatisfying. It is cold and disengaged, Inman's interior monologues don't really give him an interior life, and Anna is sheer chloroform. As always it is the lower-class hillbilly woman who does all the work while Anna strenuously exhibits refined sensibilities.
Actually, Anna, like most of the heroines of recent Civil War fiction --- including 'On The Occasion Of My Last Afternoon'--- are in reality 1990's urban women, with secular sensibilities and lots of The Dreaded Irony. At any rate, the book is simply flat. Why do Inman and Anna love each other? They've never exhibited a moment's heartfelt, unguarded love or even desire toward one another. All these people's personalities seem very urban contemporary --- cool, disengaged, passionless. I am giving it three stars for research and a heartfelt attempt to write well. Read the marvelous 'Black Flower' --- passed over for the National Book Award, but then, also, look at what has been being selected for the NBA and you'll see a pattern. Passionlessness is very much a current literary fashion.
Spend your money on 'Black Flower', or go to the Amazon review and see what others have to say about it if you don't believe me. It is an incredible book, fierce and beautifully written.
If you want to know what Civil War soldiers really thought and felt, read 'For Cause And Comrades; Why Men Fought In The Civil War'. Far from becoming cynical, as all our contemporary Civil War heroes are currently depicted, men believed deeply in their cause and their comrades, and prayed fervently. Although it is true that many North Carolina mountaineers became very disaffected with the Confederacy, on the other hand, they became ardent Union supporters. The key word here is ardent.
Reviewers who disagree with a negative viewpoint on this book answer the one-star reviewers with two things; 'If you don't like Cold Mountain then surely you must like trash literature and sitcoms' and/or 'You have to struggle on through the first fifty pages and then it gets good' --- fifty pages being too long to stand there and read some pages in the bookstore to see if you like it. To read fifty pages you'd have to buy it. In regards to the wonderful 'Royal Nonesuch' review below, he's right. Give it a NBA and high-priced publicity, some hot reviews and 'If that don't fetch them, I don't know Arkansas'.
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am 26. Juni 1999
Cold Mountain is the story of a confederate infantryman, Inman, and Aida, an unlikely farmer. These two initially incomplete people meet and fall in love just at the dawn of the American Civil War. As the adolescent nation's viability is threatened, so is the budding passion of these two young lovers. The story opens with Inman, a confederate army infantryman, waking up in a hospital room set up as a temporary infirmary for the "sure to die soon". Thought to be mortally wounded in the neck by a stray ball he acquired during the battle of Fredericksburg, his wound is literally spitting out bits and pieces of battle shrapnel. Having witnessed men he barely knows dying from wounds not to dissimilar from his own, he sees the soldiers that do survive get sent back to the front lines of battle. Realizing now that his own survival is becoming a viable notion, Inman decides that he has had enough of a war he no longer believes in and makes the remorseless decision to go home. Four years have passed since one of Inman's five senses has affirmed Aida's existence. With torturously vivid memories of battle shredding away at his disposition, he is worried that a cynicism has overcome his heart and he has lost the ability to be happy, and thereby offer happiness to the girl he loves and hopes is still home waiting for his return. Inman is a literate man who rations unambiguous words. From a vantage point that Dante himself could not have imagined, Inman's heart has turned non-partisan while remaining amazingly moral. The juxtaposition works well here and serves to strengthen Inman's appeal to the reader. After a quick, but well thought out day's preparation, Inman embarks on foot into the interiors of North Carolina, toward his home and life's well spring. Traveling through the wintering landscapes of mountain and plain pits Inman against obstacles both human and inhumane. His formable instincts for survival and his un-denying capacity to be compassionate are in constant state of conflict, knowing that like a hang man's noose dangling inches from his face, an act of kindness has the potential of turning into an irrevocable death sentence. Aida, our heroine begins her odyssey of survival and rebirth from an opposite station in life that has left her with a toddler's competence to deal with life's unforeseen turns. Following the advice of a physician, Aida and her father, Monroe moved from Charleston to Cold Mountain before the outbreak of war for the benefit of curtailing his advancing consumption. Monroe's thriving import business and steady flow of cash rendered the purchased farm as a mere amusement, having a resident couple do the work, while he and his daughter continue their life of comfort and culture. Brought up among the southern gentry of 19th century society, Aida is left unrehearsed in the skills of domestic life, let alone producing sustenance from the farm she now inadvertently occupies alone since her father's unexpected death. To make matters worse, Monroe's trade business has ceased its viability and the help that tended the farm has deserted her. With her father dead for four months, and the war raging for better than four years, we find Aida in the throws of starvation, having eaten through any stores of food that were around upon his death. Despondent and disparate, Aida enters into a pact of survival with a local mountain girl named Ruby. They agree to work the farm together and equally, share evenly in all that is produced, but by Ruby's own insistence, Aida will live in the main house, Ruby in the worker's dwelling. Even though Ruby makes it clear that she is no servant, she seems to revel in the irony of appearing as one. Over time, Aida grows to admire and love Ruby as a sister. From Ruby she acquires the skills of self-sufficiency and learns to draw a lasting satisfaction from her daily routine of physical labor. As the story progresses, Aida is transformed into a woman of self-sufficiency and independence. A rare female quality in that day. Ruby's hardened persona is gradually worn away by Aida's kind and accommodative nature, eventually learning to forgive her long delinquent father, Stobbard. The story shifts back and forth between Aida's relationship with Ruby as they work and master the Monroe's farm, and Inman's peregrination back to Aida, the beacon he has set his life's sextant on. By the time they come together both are far more complex than when they last saw each other. Their understanding of the world has become grayer, but more realistic, and their appreciation for matters of sharing ones life with another serves to increase and deepen the gravity that initially drew them together four years prior.
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am 13. Mai 1999
Where does one even start, trying to explain COLD MOUNTAIN? Cliches always pop to mind: "Masterpiece." Words such as that. "As good as Tolstoy." This is one of the most difficult books I've ever read, and I do not really know why. The prose itself is of a style I have never before encountered. Maybe that's why it took a while to get my teeth sunk into it. The writing abounds with description of everything from characters' emotions to squirrels' teeth to waterfalls. Frazier has taken a patent on describing, in words, the Appalachian Mountains. Uncanny stuff. The scope of his imagination, his ability to visualize and then describe in writing, is almost impossible to believe. You have to read the book to see what I mean. Although this is difficult reading, it is the best book I have ever read. I have read my quota of novels, and until now I would not say what I just said about Cold Mountain. I've read novels that left me dazed: Look Homeward Angel; Madame Bovary; Rabbit Run; Anna Karenina; The Catcher in the Rye; Huckleberry Finn; Of Human Bondage. Many others come to mind, but never would I answer that question, "What's your favorite book?" I would always feel that if I chose one book, I would be tossing out the others. Each of the books above is, to me, sublime in its own way. Cold Mountain, however, strikes me as somehow divine. And the qualities that make it such are impossible to explain or summarize. Reading the book is a holistic experience, and I am sure that many readers, actually most readers, would never read far enough into the book to begin feeling those waves of otherworldliness, taking them up. It is at this point, though (somewhere about page 70?),that you will simply surrender to the story and let your coffee get cold and the cat go hungry. This novel is not for everybody: not for poor readers, not for lazy readers, not for the Stephen King fans; but if a reader will trade work for bliss...his job is Cold Mountain.
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am 21. April 1999
Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier is an excellent novel that I enjoyed because of the vivid imagery and theme Frazier incorporated into this text. The imagery in this novel really helped me imagine and visualize what was going on. I loved the way the author described everyone Inman met. He didn't just describe their outside appearances but also let the reader see into these characters personalities as well as some of their souls. In this book it seems like all of the characters are making a journey to better understand themselves and the people around them and the imagery used in this novel helped me better understand the journey each character was taking. I also liked the way the author described Stobrod. "Even Stobrod's love of liquor failed to make a farmer of him." All of the characters added substance to the book and made it a more enjoyable and easier read. The theme of soul searching and understanding one's self is definitely evident in Fraiser's novel. I especially enjoyed when Ada tries to see herself in the well to understand the events after her father's death. "The various images bounced against each other until she felt a desperate vertigo, as if she could at any moment pitch backward and plunge head first down the well shaft and drown there." The idea of intertwining the characters stories and showing both Ada's trial and struggles as well as Inman's all the while having them search for each other is done very nicely. I liked how each chapter alternated between Ada and Inman and how even though the two characters were in different situations they were both heading toward the same goal of trying to understand themselves and the situations they had been thrown into. All in all I really enjoyed Cold Mountain and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys romantic adventurous novels.
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