Book Review: Cold Mountain

ColdMountainby Michael D. Pederson

 

Cold Mountain
Charles Frazier
Atlantic Monthly Press, 491 pp.

I finally caved. Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain was the book on everyone’s X-Mas list this year and hasn’t left the bestseller’s list since. I finally read it and was extremely pleased.

Cold Mountain is part of a literary tradition ranging from The Odyssey to Star Trek: Voyager; it tells the story of a man’s journey home. Like Odysseus, the hero, Inman, must face a series of conflicts and distractions along the way (he even rises from the dead at one point). Cold Mountain is the first novel from Frazier and, like many first novels, is obviously a very personal story; the story of Inman is a fictionalized account of his own family history. Even though our hero is heading straight home, the story takes a more circuitous route—alternating between lnman and his girlfriend back home; she is a society girl left alone to run her late father’s farm. Even though each character has simple goals the story stays interesting, primarily by breaking off periodically to tell other short tales. The main characters have several stories each and everyone they meet has their own story. lt’s this almost free-form reminisence that gives the novel its quaint charm. Frazier has lovingly, and with great attention to detail, recreated the rural south in the latter part of the Civil War. You are left with a very genuine empathy for the characters, no matter how minor their role.

Although l keep hearing this book compared to Michael Shaara’s Killer Angels I think the more likely comparison is to Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind. Like Mitchell, Frazier shows very little of the war and is more concerned with focusing on the lives of people that are living in a society that is falling apart and making us truly empathize with them.

I only hope that Frazier has more family history to plunder for future novels.

 

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