Thursday, August 14, 2008

CWL---Civil War Novels

Novels with a Southern setting and occurring during the Civil War era take up several shelves in CWL's personal library.

The novels on the following shortlist are all are very good with Howard Bahr's three novels being CWL's personal favorites.

All the novels are in print in paperback, with the best prices for new and used copies being at

Confederates, Thomas Keneally
Thomas Kenally, Australian writer (Schinlder's List), uses his heritage to a come to grips with the rural South, slave holding, and honor. Campaigning soldiers are treated realistically, so, well, men will be men. The setting is the Shenandoah Valley and the Confederates are in the Stonewall Brigade. First published in 1980 by Harper Collins, the book has never been out of print and is currently published in paperback by the University of Georgia.

The Long Roll and Cease Firing by Mary Johnston, daughter of Confederate general Joseph Johnston. First published in 1911 and 1913, these two novels are in print by Johns Hopkins University Press. Johnston's heritage supplies her with remarkable details of the Confederate soldier's life; her work is realistic and not over wrought with magnolias. The setting is the Shenandoah Valley and the soldiers are in the Stonewall Brigade.

Jacob's Ladder by Donald McCaig. Imagine a collaboration between Shelby Foote and Margaret Mitchell and you get some idea of the historical irony and passion of this work. The story begins in 1934 with a WPA writer interviewing 90-year-old Marguerite Omohundru.In the course of the story a dark secret of a prominent Virginia family is revealed, pro-Union Virginians are discovered in this Confederate family's attic and not all Confederates are loyal, brave and true. First published in 1998 by W.W. Norton, it still in print with Penguin Press.

The Black Flower, The Year of Jubilo, and The Judas Field by Howard Bahr. The Black Flower, first published in 1997, won several literary awards and Bahr has followed every three years with two other wonderfully descriptive novels that are true to the subtleties of human nature and the horrors of fighting. These are not combat novels in which regiments move like game pieces. These stories are about men with guns fighting for the men beside them and their communities in northern Mississippi and western/middle Tennessee. The battles of Franklin and Nashville are featured as well as the rural communities located between the armies. The unabridged audio books are as pleasurable to listen to as the print novels are too read.

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