by Charles Frazier
Inman was not expected to survive a horrific neck wound. Somehow, in dreadful conditions, he manages to care for himself but knowing that as soon he is fit enough to fight he will be sent straight back to the battlefields of Virginia, he resolves to take control of his life. Firstly by climbing out of the window of the grim hospital surrounded by dying and broken soldiers, and secondly by resolving to go on the run, to walk home to his love Ada Monroe, and resume the life he had before the war.
So begins Inman's epic and painful quest for home and the life he had before the Civil War.
Inman recalls terrible things he has seen in battle- Malvern Hill, Sharpsburg, Petersburg and Fredericksburg. It is a story of desperate conflict as both armies seem to be equally disordered and ill equipped, and the fighting is at the most intimate and basic level. This is not an account of the strategies and achievements of a war, but an ordinary soldier's first hand experience of confusion and brutality. The descriptions are not bloodthirsty or gratuitous, but certainly there are passages which are appropriately graphic and unflinching, and I confess, hard to read.
Inman has seen atrocities and cruelties which he cannot forget and which are hopefully beyond our comprehension and we begin to understand how war must have changed him, and how completely unwelcome he finds this change. Frazier brilliantly evokes Inman's confusion and disorientation with remembered tenderness and romance of the past, old Inman, making stark contrast with the present. Indeed Inman himself wonders whether these remembrances are in fact a dream, as the past seems to be another world altogether. The sense of yearning for the old life is unbearably poignant, Inman's experiences on the road take him to utter despair, to a complete hell, and it is only his yearning for home which keeps him alive.
Frazier alternates accounts of Ada's struggle for survival at Cold Mountain and Inman's journey across the devastated lands of the South. It seems increasingly unlikely that they will ever be reunited, or that their love could possibly survive against the odds
This could be the story of so many conflicts, so many centuries, and although it raises many big questions Frazier never loses track of the narrative and keeps us firmly rooted in the landscape of the final months of the Civil War. It is a wonderful and important book. A compelling narrative, fantastic and plausible in all its details and Frazier's beloved landscapes really come alive. It is also a powerful story of remembered and enduring love, Frazier has written a truly page - turning love story.
Published by Sceptre, 448pp.
"I found Cold Mountain a very disappointing novel in terms of the way it was written, cliched, etc., but felt it was obvious material for a film as the narrative and its structure was very good. However now that the Hollywood industry has their hands on it I fear the worst, especially turning it into a product with 2 of what must be currently the most expensive actors in it - Kidman and Zelwegger - and (possibly
media-generated) pre-film publicity sorry gossip about alleged affair between Kidman and Law.
I dont think I will even bother going to see the film now."