Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
My Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Written in 1997, Cold Mountain remains one of my favorite books of all time. A modern day classic set during the Civil War, it details the long journey home of a Confederate soldier who has recovered from serious injury, and knows he is going to be sent back to fight again. The tale of his arduous struggle to get back to Ada, the woman he loves, is so incredibly beautiful, I was in tears throughout much of the book. (Again, since my husband says I cry at K-Mart openings, you can make of that what you will.)
This is a book readers seem to love passionately or hate with great vigor. Sometimes I think some people just hate any book that becomes a huge commercial success, as though if it were really great literature, it would remain obscure, and only the elite few would ever read it. Thankfully, the ones who love Cold Mountain are in the VAST majority, as it is so deserving of the praise heaped upon it by nearly all who have read it.
The mountains of North Carolina are special to me…almost magical in their beauty and strength. They are part of the oldest mountain chain on the planet, and they give off an almost primeval sense of mystic power. I felt every bit of that power while reading Frazier’s beautifully descriptive prose. I also felt every desperate longing Inman carried in his heart, as he struggled to reach his home. His narrative alternates with that of Ada, who is a city girl woefully unprepared to run the family farm she has inherited. She shows tremendous pluck and courage of her own, trying to make a go of it during the deprivations of a brutal war.
When I first began to read the book, I was put off a bit by the complete lack of quotation marks around any dialog, throughout. I thought it was a bit of an affectation, and I could have done without it. But as I read, a strange thing happened. Somehow, the spoken words began to feel as if they were inside my head, in a much stronger way than normal dialog would be. It was as though leaving the quotation marks out made the words move IN, and become part of my own thinking processes. Whether this was intentional, I have no idea, but it turned what began as an irritation into something rather profound.
There was a pretty good movie made of Cold Mountain, starring Jude Law as Inman, Nicole Kidman as Ada, and Renee Zellweger as Ruby. When I first read the casting, I thought they had gotten it all wrong, as is the way in Hollywood so often. None of the actors fit the physical descriptions of Frazier’s characters. But I actually ended up liking all three in their roles. Especially Jude Law, who often brings a great intensity to the characters he portrays. So overall, I thought Cold Mountain made a good movie. But it made a GREAT book, far and above what any film could possibly capture, no matter how skilled the actors.
I highly recommend this book to those who haven’t already discovered it on their own. It’s lovely, passionate, and heart-wrenching!
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