Charles Frazier is an award-winning author of American historical fiction. He was the winner of the 1997 National Book Award for Fiction for Cold Mountain. This highly acclaimed first novel was an international bestseller, despite many Cold Mountain book reviews commenting that it is particularly long and filled with graphic descriptions of the mountains and the war.
However, most readers are unanimous in their praise of this book by Charles Frazier, who grew up in those mountains that he wrote so lovingly about. With so many books available about the American Civil War, it is refreshing to find Cold Mountain – a seemingly simple love story of a man returning from the war to the two loves of his life- a woman and the mountains.
Frazier made use of the family stories that were handed down to him by his great-great-grandfather as he was growing up as well as his research of local history. This lends a deeply human and personal feel to the book. No wonder that we include it in our selection of the best civil fiction books.
Cold Mountain is the story of a hazardous journey by a soldier, made difficult not least by the chance encounters he has along the way, as well as the “baggage” that he carries in the form of the effects of the war on his psyche. He would definitely have been treated for posttraumatic stress disorder.
References to Homer’s Odyssey, Dante’s Inferno and the Bible are often used when describing this book and that lifts it to a higher level. We are expected to be thinking, intelligent readers and make connections with those other great literary works while reading this narrative.
In a way, the slow pace of Cold Mountain book allows Frazier to use his brilliant writing style to maximum advantage and we are challenged to slow down to the pace of the footsteps of the protagonist, Inman.
Inman was a wounded soldier who deserted when he became deeply disillusioned with the events that were taking place and the unbearable conditions of the war. What had begun as an exciting adventure for him, became an untenable situation that left him desperately longing to return to his home in the mountains and Ada, his beloved.
Cold Mountain is the story of his journey through a landscape that was to be changed forever by the events that took place in those decisive battles. He witnesses devastation of land, property and people on his journey.
At that time, nothing remained the same and that goes for Ada as well. She was forced to survive on her father’s farm and only succeeded because of help from a questionable source in the form of a young drifter named Ruby.
After being separated for four long years, Inman and Ada are forced to adapt to their personal changes as well as their world which had been totally transformed by the war. Frazier is aware of how much all the changes in society impact on human relations at the most basic level, a fact that is often overlooked by “The Masters of War”.
For anyone looking for a light novel to take on a beach vacation or a quick read to fill a couple of hours, Cold Mountain book is not for you. If you have a love of historical novels, a love of nature and in particular a love of mountain living, then you will “get” this book. A patient reader with time to ingest the beautiful prose and the ability to read using inference and make connections will enjoy this thought- provoking book.