One of the most famous Civil War novels ever written is Charles Frazier’s 1997 book, “Cold Mountain.” I’ve had this book on my “bucket list” for several years now and have actually owned a copy of it for even longer than that. I finally began reading “Cold Mountain” on March 12 and officially finished reading it on Saturday.
For those of you unfamiliar with the book, it’s mostly about a young Confederate infantryman named W.P. Inman, who survives a severe combat injury in the closing months of the war. He eventually slips away from a hospital in Raleigh, N.C. and begins making his way back home to Cold Mountain. Along the way, he has to deal with the continued effects of his wound, the weather, hunger and the various scoundrels and nefarious Home Guard troops he meets along the way.
Most of the rest of the book, maybe more than half, is about Inman’s love interest Ada and her companion Ruby, who have teamed up to work Ada’s farm after the death of her father. Ada owns the farm on Cold Mountain, and is Inman’s destination. Ada knows little about farming, but Ruby more than makes up for her lack of knowledge thanks to her childhood spent mostly alone in the North Carolina hills.
The book bears a lot of similarities with Homer’s “Odyssey,” and it also reminded me a lot of some of the Cormac McCarthy books that I’ve read. “Cold Mountain” is really a mixed bag. There’s a lot of danger and action, and it demonstrates why many Civil War soldiers deserted their respective armies. The novel is also full of many memorable characters, each appealing unique in their own way, even the “bad guys.”
Many of you will be familiar with this book because of the 2003 motion picture adaptation of the novel, which was also called “Cold Mountain.” Released on Dec. 25, 2003, the movie was directed by Anthony Minghella. Jude Law played the role of Inman, Nicole Kidman played Ada, and Renee Zellweger played Ruby. Other cast members included Philip Seymour Hoffman, Natalie Portman, Giovanni Ribisi and Donald Sutherland.
Many fans of the book, didn’t like the movie because if failed to adequately capture the spirit of the book. It’s often said that the book is always better than the movie, and that seems to be true in this situation. If you’ve seen the movie and liked it, you’ll love the book because it’s very, very good, especially if you enjoy Civil War history and themes.
I was interested to learn that Cold Mountain is actually a real place and is located in the Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina. Frazier has also been quoted in interviews as saying that the W.P. Inman character was based on his great-grand-uncle who lived near the real-life Cold Mountain. Knowing all this makes me want to visit the real Cold Mountain, and I may add that trip to my bucket list next year.
In the end, how many of you have read “Cold Mountain”? What did you think about it? What other Civil War books would you recommend reading? Let us know in the comments section below.