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Cold Mountain In 1997 Charles Frazier' s debut novel Cold Mountain made publishing history when it sailed to the top of The New York Times best seller list for sixty one weeks won numerous literary awards including the National Book Award and went on to sell over three million copies Now the beloved American epic returns reissued by Grove Press to coincide with the publication of Frazier' s eagerly anticipated second novel Thirteen Moons Sorely wounded and fatally disillusioned in the fighting at Petersburg a Confederate soldier named Inman decides to walk back to his home in the Blue Ridge mountains to Ada the woman he loves His trek across the disintegrating South brings him into intimate and sometimes lethal converse with slaves and marauders bounty hunters and witches both helpful and malign At the same time the intrepid Ada is trying to revive her father' s derelict farm and learning to survive in a world where the old certainties have been swept away As it interweaves their stories Cold Mountain asserts itself as an authentic odyssey hugely powerful majestically lovely and keenly moving Reading Road Trip 2020Current location North Carolina he held to the idea of another world a better place and he figured he might as well consider Cold Mountain to be the location of it as anywhereLike Inman I have been trying to get to Cold Mountain for years now My original inspiration came from a family of beloved Tar Heel next door neighbors who introduced me to sweet tea red velvet cake and unhurried speech They made homemade ice cream in the summers while standing on the patio in bare feet and they produced vegetables from soil the color of coffee grounds while the rest of us stared down at the Florida sand knowing that nothing would grow thereThe Tar Heel husband of this family would alternately love on his wife in a demonstrative way I had never witnessed before then occasionally produce a gun after too much moonshine and wave it menacingly in the air terrifying his wife and all three daughters Somehow order would always be restored the next day I have always known that these were my peopleI have flirted with a move to North Carolina at several different junctures of my adult life but the closest I have come to making that move is now Now or accurately this summer And now well you know The damned pandemic The thing that is upsetting the natural course of our daily lives our dreams our plans our euilibrium too But though it is true that every age considers the world to be in a precarious state at the very edge of dark we are being threatened with something that so many others who have walked before us have faced pandemics wars depressions recessions tyrannical leaders natural disastersSo my plans are on hold Like Inman's Like Ada's Like Ruby's Like Stobrod's But we keep on planning and we keep on dreaming even if we do look up as Inman does and think sometimes God if I could sprout wings and fly I would be gone from this place my great wings bearing me up and out long feathers hissing in the windOne foot after the other foot after the other foot after the other footIt hurts So much of it hurts and you'd be hard pressed to say which hurts the physical or emotional pain but pain goes eventually and when it's gone there's no lasting memory Not the worst of it anyway It fades Our minds aren't made to hold on to the particulars of pain the way we do blissAnd so we continue walking because like Inman most of us can see that there is little usefulness in speculating much on what a day will bringWe walk and we rejoice that we are readers and we know that a book may provide a holiness of such richness that one might dip into it at random and read only one sentence and yet be sure of finding instruction and delightAnd it is good so very good to be reminded of how much others have suffered here and how much solace holy words wherever we find them may provide us and how often we can delight in natural beauty And it is so good so very good to have reminders to look around us at what is precious to us and conjure the poetry of our lives the words of spells and incantations to ward off the things one fears mostFor just as Odysseus was pushed by a great gale as soon as he was within sight of home so will you be pushed away from goals and dreams and loved ones For just as Inman is captured and tied and dragged back over all the terrain he has already traveled so will you be waylaid and rerouted and brokenBut you've got to keep on walking straight as the crow flies regardless of what happens to you on your journey You've got to keep crawling toward your Cold Mountain keep it always in front of you JourneyA sweeping and tumultuous story of an injured American civil war soldier who goes AWOL and makes a relentless and dangerous journey back home to Cold Mountain and to the woman he intends spending the rest of his life with As poetic as Homer’s Odyssey Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain is an outstanding literary masterpiece He tells the story of Inman and Ada their past people they meet on their travels the challenges they face and the dreams they hold dear A physical journey home and a journey of personal development eually captivating eually precarious and eually drawing the story to a climactic ending With a magician’s hand Frazier keeps us spellbound with the central story while conjuring wisps of literary tales from Greek Roman and English literature and weaving them into the narrative with the effortless hand of an illusionist Frazier is never obvious with the content of his story even though Odysseus’ journey back from the Trojan War to his wife Penelope in Ithaca reverberates throughout this novel This is not about a modern retelling of the Odyssey but rather enticing us to explore how the ancient folklore has been reshaped to provide a uniue clever and agonising alternative Within the narrative we catch faded echoes of exotic characters such as Witches Sirens Cyclopes Persephone Calypso Cerberus Narcissus but their behaviour may or may not follow an expected path but it will always be imaginatively realisedInman battles elements of nature as he travels through the winter – cold wet hungry and at times disorientated He is an honest man and often reflects “ the wrong a man does flies back at him” As a soldier he has seen horrors and been part of those horrors but he approaches every situation with a positive intent that fairness will be done Sometimes kindness is repaid and sometimes it is manipulated against him Regardless Inman must face all his trials as he descends through the levels of hell – who knows maybe there are nine of them and Dante makes an appearance as wellAda is joined by Ruby as she now tries to make her farm operational following the death of her father A lady of leisure Ada must now face a harsh reality and journey through the challenges of hard work growing crops raising livestock fixing fences and trading for goods Ruby is accomplished at this type of work and bluntly forces Ada to play her part in this endeavour Ada now goes to bed tired and physically exhausted and her outward appearance changes to sun drenched skin rough skinned hands and practical work clothesFrazier places nature as a constant reference point and uses it with distinguished ardour Elements of birds and trees add deeper appreciation of the signs nature is constantly presenting to us Nature with its mythical connections gives Frazier another wand to magically enthral usThis was a first buddy read with Julie and it was a joy to take our time and discuss the links and decipher the meaning of various scenes I am full of admiration for Charles Frazier after devouring his epic piece of work and I would highly recommend reading the book Another addition to my Top 10 books of all time Considering the widespread acclaim this book and its subseuent film adaptation have received I'm reluctant to write a negative review Still a dissenting opinion at least makes for an interesting read This was absolutely the most boring book I have ever read It took me about a year to finish it because every time I tried to pick it up day or night I was asleep in minutes Though the descriptions of the picturesue mountainous landscape are often beautiful I fail to see the point I can't understand why the lovers at the center of the plot even like eachother and in general I find the characters' motivation for doing anything completely inexplicable I don't wish to spoil the story such as it is for any would be readers so I'll refrain from posting plot details Suffice it to say that the entire plot hinges on a series of events that conveniently take place but seem to have no basis in reality Why for example did the protagonist undertake his long journey in the first place This is to my mind never made adeuately clear Conseuently instead of rooting for the characters I end up thinking What a bunch of morons Did not like it Although it has an interesting structure and pretext it is so intellectualized that it is hard to care about the characters at all It seems like Frazier is interested in showing off than in writing a gripping work of fiction How long would you wait for your lover if you knew not whether they were alive and you yourself had changed almost beyond recognition This is a beautiful understated unsentimental Odyssey of uiet longing endurance and transformation This journey will be the axle of my lifeInman's journey is across hundreds of dangerous miles fleeing war and trying to get to where his love lives four years after they parted She had made her way to a place where an entirely other order prevailed from what she had always knownAda's journey takes place within a few miles of her home It's no coincidence that Inman's treasured book is a travel book whereas Ruby held a deep distrust of travel even to the shops Times are tough but at least Ada and Inman have confidence in who and what it is they yearn for StructureMost of the novel alternates between Ada’s and Inman's separate struggles to survive with backstory gradually provided by their reminiscences Each of Inman's chapters involves a dramatic encounter good or bad that sheds light on his character as well as the trials of war and wilderness Ada is 26 orphaned nearly destitute and trying to cope with a little land but no staff or skill The varying tempo works wellBoth Inman and Ada cultivate the art of really seeing Inman is ever watchful noticing every little sign in nature or people's behaviour that may signal danger a shadow behind leaves a blade hidden in a hairdo; Ada learns to see the signs of seasons weather harvest birds and animalsThe language is sometimes a little archaic as it should be uotation marks are not used but I didn't really feel their absence dialog is usually prefaced with a long dashCivil WarAlthough the backdrop is the American civil war I didn't feel hampered by my relative lack of knowledge of US history There was enough background detail to picture daily life but the politics and the war were external to the characters and hence to me as a readerRight and Wrong; Revenge and ForgivenessInman is a deserter badly injured but a deserter none the less He was never a natural killer is haunted by what he's seen and done and doesn't believe in the cause anyway if he ever did There are gangs wanting bounty for finding deserters and desperate men who will kill for any reason and none Coupled with his inherently peaceful and forgiving nature repeatedly put to the test the risks are great Pondering the story of a man born blind Inman asks himself What would be the cost of not having an enemy Who could you strike for retribution other than yourselfBut retribution isn't really his mindset; he's almost too good to be true given the hardships and dangers he faces such as stealing food but leaving money than it's worth putting himself in grave danger to help strangersand avoiding and preventing violence even when it's not really his responsibility and would be easier to walk away He's certainly forgiving than the disgraced preacher VeaseyThe Sustenance of Literature and MusicAn unexpected pleasure was the underlying thread of the solace to be found in books On the very first page Inman is in military hospital settling his mind with a treasured copy of Travels of William Bartram Throughout the story he returns to this book in small snippets at times of need view spoilerWhen he's reunited with Ada he reads her an extract hide spoiler The best way I could find to describe the book is the American Civil War version of the Odyssey with Inman as the wandering hero trying to find his way back home to the North Carolina Appallachians and Ada as his Penelope tending the home fires This is an oversimplification but the epic scope is there the perilous journey the oddball characters met on the road the mystical elements of prophecy cursed fate faithful love Additional major themes tackled are the brutality and senselessness of war women emancipation Native American Cherokee Trail of Tears music as soul healer and the majesty of nature he had seen the metal face of the age and had been so stunned by it that when he thought into the future all he could vision was a world from which everything he counted important had been banished or had willingly fled Inman is a young man born and raised in the high country at the foot of Cold Mountain the highest peak in this scarcely populated corner of North Carolina He goes to war not out of any patriotic fervor or deep seated political convictions but in search of adventure and excitement The four years in the trenches cure him of any romantic feelings about organized killing leaving him sorely wounded and spiritually crushed Anyone could be oracle for the random ways things fall against each other It was simple enough to tell fortunes if a man dedicated himself to the idea that the future will inevitably be worse than the past and that time is a path leading nowhere but a place of deep and persistent threat The way Inman saw it if a thing like Fredericksburg was to be used as a marker of current position then many years hence at the rate we're going we'll be eating one another raw His one comfort in the long bed ridden hospital weeks is a travel book describing the mountains back home a Bartram guide that will accompany him on all his travels once he decides to turn his back on the war and walk back home As a deserter he is forced to hide during the day and walk only by night stealing what scarce food he could find Local militias are combing the territory looking for his ilk and than once Inman is forced to fight his way free The destruction of his character is visible most of all in the way he is still living in a world where the options are kill or be killed always ready to solve his problems at gunpoint Inman is no angel of peace making his separate peace and searching for redemption He is still very much a professional killer a desperado who will let nothing stand in his way a PTSD victim that belongs in a hospital rather than roaming free You will be living fitfully Your soul will fade to blue the color of despair Your spirit will wane and dwindle away never to reappear Your path lies toward the Nightland This is your path There is no other is the refrain of a Cherokee curse that marks every step Inman takesYet glimpses of his former character resurface in the way he takes the part of the less fortunate than himself usually women in distress like Sara a teenage war widow with a small child and a pig There was nothing about her story remarkable other than that it was her life As he leaves the lower lands and comes closer to the high hills Inman's struggles become desperate due to lack of food and exhaustion yet his spirit becomes free of his flesh and soars God if I could sprout wings and fly I would be gone from this place my great wings bearing me up and out long feathers hissing in the wind The world would unfurl below me like a bright picture on a scroll of paper and there would be nothing holding me to ground The watercourses and hills passing under me effortless and simple And me just rising and rising till I was but a dark speck on the clear sky Gone on elsewhere To live among the tree limbs and cliff rocks Elements of humanity might come now and again like emissaries to draw me back to the society of people Unsuccesful every time Fly off to some high ridge and perch observing the bright light of common day Inman chapters in the book alternate with the story of Ada Monroe Ada is a preacher's daughter from Charleston who moved to the mountains hoping her father's illness tuberculosis wil improve When he dies she is left alone on the farm they bought utterly helpless to fend for herself Monroe tried to keep her a child and with litle resistance from her he had largely succeeded She is a poster child of the Victorian morals and fetish for women as delicate and useless hothouse flowers Some readers might find her part of the novel boring but for me it was as compelling as the journey of Inman Ada too is enchanted by the beauty of the mountains and is interested in all the forms of life around her initially in an aestethic way through watercolours and journal entries later through the healthy sweat of her labours and the satisfaction of doing things with your own hand Ada is helped along by Ruby a local girl who learned very early to fend for herself when she was abandoned by her drunken father Stobrod Not even Ada's farm is safe from the ravages of war Refugees from places sacked by the Northern Army pass through local militias make their own law burning and pillaging The most reprehensible thing in the whole book is this description of the total war concept where you set out to destroy non military targets in order to demoralize your adversary Unfortunately the tactichas become the norm in modern times where nothing is considered civilian anyA third storyline is introduced later in the novel but it was one of my favorites given my own passion for blues music Initially Ruby's father Stobrod is presented as a lowlife rascal but years away in the war have changed him in unexpected ways His salvation comes through music One thing he discovered with a great deal of astonishment was that music held for him than just pleasure There was meat to it The groupings of sounds their forms in the air as they rang out and faded said something comforting to him about the rule of creation What the music said was that there is a right way for things to be ordered so that life might not always be just tangle and drift but have a shape an aim It was a powerful argument against the notion that things just happenI will stop here in order to not spoil the ending of the novel as the paths of Inman and Ada converge although many are probably familiar with it from the movie version I liked the book better especially as I thought the movie insisted too much on Ada and Ruby and not enough on Inman and his troubles on the road Yet it was a faithful adaptation and over it was filmed around my usual mountain weekend haunts in the Southern Carpathians arc a lovely country rugged in places rolling hills over the next horizon huge forests and welcoming locals The descriptions of the Appalachians felt than usually familiar and appealing The track was ill used so coiled and knotted he could not say what its general tendency was It aimed nowhere certain but up The brush and bracken grew thick in the footway and the ground seemed to be healing over so that in some near future the way would not even remain as scar For several miles it mostly wound its way through a forest of immense hemlocks and the fog lay among them so thick that heir green boughs were hidden Only the black trunks were visible rising into the low sky like old menhirs stood up by a forgotten race to memorialize the darker events of their history I did have some minor issues with the book mostly about the slow pacing and the surprising literacy of Inman given his modest origins but the superb prose of Frasier than made up for it Just don't expect a fast paced adventure and you might have a very rewarding read on your hands Highly recommended for lovers of Nature and introspective historical fiction I'll end with a Wordsworth uote Ada uses in the book to describe the mountains Earth has not anything to show fair Dull would be the soul who could pass by a sight so touching in its majesty link to a gallery of my mountain photosmountain views You've probably seen the movie made from this bookIt was a fine movie It won OscarsBut it cannot begin to capture the truly spectacular parts of this story because they are not the surface level narratives that make it onto the big screenBefore you can truly appreciate the uality of this book you need to be familiar with at least Homer's Odyssey Dante's Inferno and parts of the Bible You need to be on guard for a depth of symbolism and complexity of foreshadowing and allusion that will boggle your mindI always knew the movie didn't really get the book but when my dad who has not read the book referred to it as a chick flick because he thought of it primarily as a love story which it is but not that kind then I really realized what one misses when one has not read the book Be strong saith my heart; I am a soldier; I have seen worse sights than this —Homer The OdysseyHaving recently read The Odyssey I was prompted by Goodreads friend JulieGrippo to go on this journey namely Homer's epic voyage transposed to the terrain of 19th century North AmericaInman not as heroic as Odysseus an army deserter wounded in the American Civil War faces a treacherous interminable journey home to his love Ada ergo Odysseus’s PenelopeYou can see from my five star rating that I was captivated by this book but it could just have easily been demoted to three stars as it was very nearly hoisted by a petard of its own poetic proseSo I'll just get my two gripes out of the way then we can all sit down and have a nice cup of teaGripe #1One of my pet peeves is seeing dialogue that isn't neatly nestled between some perfectly respectable speech marks Why Charles Frazier Why They were evidently good enough for Dickens Hugo and Dostoyevsky yet for some artsy reason you didn't feel the needOf course the enlightened readers among us can get by without them but applying the same logic why bother with commas and full stops In fact let's go the whole hog and eliminate vowels as well Huh Bloody vowels making words much longer than they need to beGripe #2More than most I drool over a banuet of sumptuous prose Frazier writes beautifully and songbirds landed on my shoulders while I read rather like a dreamy scene from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs All it seemed was perfectly spiffing in my worldBut holy pretentiousness Batman Surely he didn’t have to pack every blimmin' paragraph with eminence until each one burst at the seams The high calibre prose though meritorious did uicksand the pace of my read and decelerated the narrative thrust of the story Ahhh now isn't it just grand to get things off one's chest So how about that nice cup of tea do you take milk and sugarThe story despite my two gripes is a towering epic worthy of the utmost praise Evocative and monumental it carries weighty themes of love resilience honour and devotion with great aplomb Granted it doesn't flow like a cold mountain stream but you won't often see writing as good as this in our modern age Stunning This book is the perfect example of timing being everything I tried to read this book when it was first released and I don't think I got passed the first 25 pages I tried again after I saw the movie with the same outcome Fast forward to 2016 the book obviously hasns't changed but I am a completely different reader and I LOVED this book I'm pretty generous with 5 star reviews but I don't add many books to my favorites shelf which is where this one ended up It is a slow burn and you have to be patient and take your time but the reward is so worth it The story is beautiful and haunting and I am so glad that I kept trying and finally found the right time to read this

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