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Andersonville by MacKinlay Kantor

Andersonville (1955)

by MacKinlay Kantor

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Andersonville is the 1956 Pulitzer Prize winning novel about the same named Confederate prisoner of war camp located at Anderson Georgia. The novel graphically portrays life in and around the notorious camp. The point of view of the novel is told from multiple perspectives.

Ira Claffey and his daughter Lucy are well off residents of their small community, who have the misfortune of having the prison built close to their plantation. Despite having three sons killed in various battles on behalf of the Confederacy, Ira and Lucy remain remarkably charitable towards the union prisoners and even try unsuccessfully to relieve some of their suffering. Harrell Ellkins is brought to Andersonville as a doctor for the prisoners and becomes increasingly horrified and despondent over the treatment of the prisoners. Several Union prisoners’ perspectives are also conveyed as they try to survive the increasingly squalid conditions of their confinement and starvation. Also given a voice is Henry Wirz, the camp commandant and General John Winder, who was in charge of all the Confederate prisoners of war. By giving voice to some many different perspectives, the author tries to paint a historically accurate picture of what life would have been like in 1864 Georgia.

The novel is well researched and very well written. Modern readers may be surprised that such topics as homosexuality, rape and abortion are touched on in the course of the book. Descriptions of the absolutely disgusting condition of the camp and the many diseases suffered by the emaciated union prisoners are strongly reminiscent of Nazi concentration camps. Readers who have studied the Civil War and that time period will surely recognize little historical references. Such as Benny Haven, who was the owner of a popular tavern located in the town of West Point and housewives, little sewing kits that soldiers were issued to help keep their uniforms repaired with while in the field. Newcomers to the topic might feel a little lost at times, but Andersonville is definitely worth the effort. ( )
  queencersei | Nov 12, 2015 |
I read this when I did because I was reading all the novels that had won the Pulitzer prize for fiction which I had not yet read. I found this a searing and poignant account of the Confederate prison, and accepted that it was historically reliable, as I believe it is generally still so consideredd. ( )
  Schmerguls | Jul 29, 2013 |
This book was ridiculously awful.

The worst part was how, for the first 50 pages or so, I thought it was going to be fantastic. It was about a southern town (Anderson) where a prison was built during the civil war. The first chapter was about the family whose land was taken by the rebels in order to build this prison. The characters were rich, engaging and conflicted.

However, it turned out that basically every chapter is full of new people. There was a very small continuing plot line, but for the most part it was disjointed tellings of the atrocities in this prison. Incredibly graphic passages abounded, and while I did care in that "I care that any human was treated this way," kind of way, I did not care in an, "I know and care about this character specifically," kind of way.

Also, Kantor felt the need to not include any quotation marks in the book. Half the time I didn't even realize someone was talking until halfway through their speech. Not cool my friend. Not cool.

The author clearly did his research, and wanted to include every morsel of it, and I can see why Civil War buffs might care about this book. It was not for me though. ( )
  agnesmack | Sep 4, 2011 |
The memory of this read has stuck with me for many years. For those interested in a facet of view other than that normaly depicted in Civil War histories. I strongly suggest this work. ( )
  Tenpa | Jan 19, 2011 |
You will remember this book for as long as you live. ( )
  mapconsultant | Jan 6, 2010 |
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Sometimes there was a compulsion which drew Ira Claffey from his plantation and sent him to walk the forest.
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Captures the glory and shame of America's most tragic conflict, the Civil War, in the crowded world of the infamous prison, Andersonville, and the people who lived outside its barricades.

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