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Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

Cold Mountain (original 1997; edition 2006)

by Charles Frazier

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10,379167277 (3.84)399
Title:Cold Mountain
Authors:Charles Frazier
Info:Grove Press (2006), Edition: 1, Paperback, 464 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Civil War, Southern

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Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier (1997)


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Great book, written by a man who is really observant of nature. I thought the movie was good which I saw first, but the book is even better. Inman's journey is an Odyssey replete with interesting characters. ( )
  Gary_Power | Jul 10, 2016 |
This book is a masterpiece. It's powerful characterization and descriptions just stick with you. Don't worry about what you think should happen, just enjoy the road. Read it more than once to fully enjoy it.

6/14/11 -- Listening to this, I can hear early American authors come alive in the words, as well as the ties to Homer. I think this book should be required reading. ( )
  sydsavvy | Apr 8, 2016 |
So sad. ( )
  jnmwheels | Apr 3, 2016 |
Inman is a Confederate soldier and he is not very happy about it. After a hospital stay for a wound, he decides to leave the military life and return home. Maybe he will reunite with Ada; he hopes so. He is, however, aware that his decision will be opposed by a few groups. The establishment military will try to capture him. Inman feared more the bands of common criminals operating under flags of pseudo-patriotism, like the Home Guard, that would like to capture him. Some would turn him over to the Confederate Army; some would turn him over to the federal Army. Some would kill him for fun.

Inman sets off on a long foot journey; a horse would both require care and attract attention. The journey could take months. Each chapter is a story of a character that Inman meets along the way. Some characters reappear in later chapters, but each chapter could have been written as a short story.

One entertaining part of the reading experience with this book was that I had to use a dictionary, frequently. This well researched book uses vocabulary of the time to describe things that are no longer in common use. I did not know what “mast” was (p 83). The phrase “where the horse was taken from between the thills and put in a stall” (p.201) stopped me. What are thills? Even the Kindle supplied dictionary was sometimes not helpful; either there was no definition or the definition given made no sense in context. Further research gave me the answer and I liked the challenge.

There is an interesting style of writing with complex sentences that provoke several thoughts from just one sentence.
“The man had a big round head which sat unbalanced on him like God was being witty about making the insides of it so small. Though he was nearly thirty according to Stobrod, people still called him a boy because his thoughts would not wrap around the least puzzle. To him, the world had no order of succession, no causation, no precedent. Everything he saw was new-minted, and thus every day was a parade of wonders” (p. 262).

Inman’s need to walk and hide at the same time takes him through forests, along ridges, over and through streams and rivers. He walks through seasons and observes changes. For the nature loving reader, this book is a delight with is detailed, informed description of terrain. Not only is central character Inman alone, the object of his journey and desire, Ada, is also initially alone. She remains in one place, becoming a self-taught gardener by necessity caused by war, until joined by Ruby. Ruby’s existence prior to meeting Ada was a lonely one. Here we also find great passages describing living in the woods, alone, from about the age of three. Although she and Ada live together, Ruby has no words to spare for Ada unless they have profit and meaning. The lone, self-reliant existence is reinforced. Characters living alone give rise to internal dialogue and philosophical interpretation. Ada did this from an educated background; Inman was more self-taught. Ruby was common sense survival driven. Resultant commonalities and differences were shown, not explained. Great writing.

There is much more to write about how great this book is, but other reviewers have done a great job. I just wanted to add my observations. Are there any negatives? Only if the reader does not like very detailed descriptions of nature; even then the writing is great, it just doesn’t move forward as fast. I believe this to be a must read book for anyone who loves and works with literature. ( )
  ajarn7086 | Mar 5, 2016 |

Cold Mountain opens with its protagonist, Inman, lying in a Virginia hospital recovering from war wounds. He is shattered by the violence he has witnessed while fighting in the Confederate army and wants to go home to reunite with Ada, the woman he loves. Inman talks to a blind man and realizes that losing something you already have is worse than not getting what you want. One day in town, Inman writes to inform Ada that he is returning home. That night, he leaves the hospital through a window and sets out on his journey back to North Carolina.

The story of Inman’s adventures intertwines with Ada’s story. Ada is left alone to manage Black Cove Farm following her father’s death. She is bereft and has no idea where she belongs or how she should earn a living. When she visits the Swangers, her neighbors, Ada looks into a well to foretell her future. She sees a man walking through the woods on a journey but does not know what this vision means. The next day, Sally Swanger sends a local girl named Ruby to help out on the farm. Ruby and Ada become friends and establish a comfortable domestic routine.

Meanwhile, Inman’s journey westward is fraught with danger and violence. He is pursued across the Cape Fear River, escaping with his life thanks to the skill of a girl paddling a dugout canoe. Inman intervenes when he finds a dissolute preacher, Solomon Veasey, attempting to murder his (the preacher’s) pregnant lover. The preacher is exiled from his community, and Inman is forced to -continue part of his journey with Veasey. Inman has to intervene again when Veasey causes trouble in a store and at an inn. While Veasey spends the night with a prostitute called Big Tildy, the peddler Odell tells Inman a sad story about landowners’ cruelty towards slaves.

The next day, Inman and Veasey help a man remove a dead bull from his stream. This man, Junior, invites them to his home to spend the night, and several strange things happen. Inman is drugged and forced to marry Junior’s wife, who the author suggests may be a cannibal. Junior then hands Inman and Veasey over to the Home Guard, the military force that has been searching for Inman. Inman is forced to walk eastward, retracing his steps. The guards decide to shoot the men and bury them in a shallow grave. Although Inman escapes with a slight head wound, Veasey dies.

Ada’s story resumes. The novel follows her adjustment to a life of labor in harmony with nature. Ada’s friendship with Ruby blossoms as she begins to identify with the natural world. The female protagonist lays down roots at the farm and recalls memories of Inman and her father. Occasionally, she finds herself touched by events surrounding the war. A group of pilgrims forced into exile by Federal soldiers seeks shelter for a day at the farm. Ada recalls Blount, a soldier she met at a party in Charleston who later died in battle.

Finally, when Ada and Ruby visit the town of Cold Mountain, they hear a story told by a prisoner jailed for desertion. The captive tells of the sadistic Teague’s band of the Home Guard. On their walk home, the two women observe some herons, and Ruby explains that a heron fathered her. Ada tells the intricate story of her parents’ relationship and her mother’s tragic death in childbirth. Ruby’s father, Stobrod, appears later, caught in a trap the women have laid to catch a corn thief. He explains that he is living in a mountain cave with a community of outliers who object to the war. Stobrod plays his fiddle to prove that he is a changed man, but Ruby remains skeptical.

Inman’s story continues. Having been dragged from the shallow grave by wild hogs, Inman meets a kind slave who feeds and clothes him and draws a map of what lies ahead. He returns to Junior’s house and kills him. Inman then continues on his journey, full of despair, a “traveling shade.” Inman meets an old woman who offers him shelter at her camp in the mountains. He rests and regains his strength while the woman nurses his wounds and talks about her life. Inman learns that the woman ran away from a loveless marriage and raises goats for company and sustenance. Inman identifies with the goat-woman, but concludes that he could not live such an isolated life.

Inman continues to wander and meets a man called “Potts,” who directs him to a cabin belonging to Sara, a kind young woman whose husband died in battle. Sara feeds Inman, mends his clothes and tells him her story. Despite her bravery, she is close to despair. The next day, Inman kills three Federal soldiers, called “Federals” in the novel, after these men threaten Sara and her baby and steal the family hog, the only form of sustenance that the family has.

At home, Ada and Ruby start harvesting apples as autumn nears. Stobrod reappears with a slow-witted banjo player named Pangle. Ruby’s father asks for shelter at the farm and for food provisions, explaining that the men intend to leave the outliers’ cave because it is getting too dangerous. To Ruby’s annoyance, Ada agrees to help Stobrod. The men go off into the mountains with a boy from Georgia to find their own camp. Teague’s Home Guard appears looking for the mountain cave and shoots Stobrod and Pangle. The Georgia boy, who survived because he hid in a thicket, runs to the farm and tells the women what happened. Ada and Ruby leave to bury the bodies and camp out in the mountains. The next day, they bury Pangle but discover that Stobrod is still alive. Ruby removes the bullet from her father and takes him to an abandoned Cherokee village.

Meanwhile, Inman reaches Black Cove Farm and finds himself in sight of Cold Mountain. The Georgia boy tells him that the women have left to bury Ruby’s father. Inman climbs the mountain and finds Pangle’s grave but loses Ada’s tracks in the snow. The next day he hears a gunshot and finds Ada hunting turkeys. The lovers spend four days together at the Cherokee village, discussing their feelings, past experiences, and plans for the future. They decide that Inman will walk north and surrender to the Federals, since the war will be over soon. On the fifth day, Stobrod is strong enough to travel. Ada and Ruby leave for the farm and the men follow.

On the journey back to Black Cove, the Home Guard ambushes Inman and Stobrod. Inman kills all the men except for Birch, Teague’s second-in-command. Birch seems powerless and scared, but he shoots Inman before the Inman can attack him. Ada hears the shots, finds Stobrod, and races back to locate Inman. She holds him in her lap as he dies.

In a brief epilogue set ten years later, Ada, her nine year-old daughter (presumably by Inman), and Ruby’s family gather in the evening. Ruby has married the boy from Georgia, called Reid, and has had three sons with him. The family sits down to eat. When the meal is over, Stobrod plays his fiddle and Ada reads to the children. ( )
  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 167 (next | show all)
Frazier has been widely and justly praised for his elegant prose and rich evocations of the natural world. For me, however, the deepest satisfactions of his novel derive from his deft treatment of certain perennially appealing pop archetypes.
Cold Mountain is sincerely plausible. It is a solemn fake. You will not hear this from the readers and judges who have helped make Charles Frazier's Civil War tale probably the most popular novel about that period since Gone With the Wind. (Since its publication in June, Cold Mountain has sold more than a million copies; in November, it won the National Book Award.) The book is so professionally archaeological, so competently dug, that one can mistake its surfaces for depth. But it's like a cemetery with no bodies in it. All the records of life are there, the facts and figures and pocket histories, pointing up out of the ground, but what's buried there was never alive.
added by Shortride | editSlate, James Wood (Dec 24, 1997)
For a first novelist, in fact for any novelist, Charles Frazier has taken on a daunting task -- and has done extraordinarily well by it.
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It is difficult to believe in the dreadful but quiet war of organic beings, going on in the peaceful woods, & smiling fields.
   --Darwin, 1839 journal entry
Men ask the way to Cold Mountain.
Cold Mountain: there's no through trail.
---for Katherine and Annie
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At the first gesture of morning, flies began stirring.
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This is the novel that the movie by the same name is based. Please do not combine the movie or abridged versions with this work.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0802142842, Paperback)

The hero of Charles Frazier's beautifully written and deeply-imagined first novel is Inman, a disillusioned Confederate soldier who has failed to die as expected after being seriously wounded in battle during the last days of the Civil War. Rather than waiting to be redeployed to the front, the soul-sick Inman deserts, and embarks on a dangerous and lonely odyssey through the devastated South, heading home to North Carolina, and seeking only to be reunited with his beloved, Ada, who has herself been struggling to maintain the family farm she inherited. Cold Mountain is an unforgettable addition to the literature of one of the most important and transformational periods in American history.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:01 -0400)

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The impact of the Civil War on lovers. Inman is not the man he used to be, as wounded in battle he slowly makes his way home to North Carolina. His sweetheart, Ada, too has changed, no longer a flighty belle but a hard-working farm woman. Will love be the same?… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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