7.26.2011

Great Civil War Novels That Aren't Gone With the Wind

For those of you who don't keep up with such things, it's the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. I doubt folks are paying much attention to this elsewhere, but there's quite a to-do about it down here. This year also happens to be the 75th anniversary of the publication of Gone With the Wind. For many, GWTW has become synonymous with the Civil War, but why stop there? Here is a short list of other great Civil War novels that will sweep you off your feet.

1. Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain - a National Book Award-winning Civil War tale loosely based on the Odyssey - has become a classic that many refer to as the second best Civil War novel ever written. Inman risks peril and death when he deserts the Confederate army and begins his journey home to his beloved Ada. Ada, desperately awaiting Inman's return, experiences her own journey as she evolves from a pampered girl to a woman capable of running a farm and taking care of herself.

2. Dara Horn's All Other Nights is a riveting, delightful book that didn't get as much attention as it should have when it came out. Horn's exploration of the Jewish experience during the Civil War proves that there are still untold stories from this bloody chapter in our history. Southern and Jewish, Jacob Rappaport escapes family expectations when he flees an arranged engagement and enlists in the Union Army. After refusing to murder his uncle, a man involved with the Confederate government, on Passover night, the Union army commands him to marry beautiful Confederate spy Eugenia Levy instead. What begins as an attempt to uncover espionage, turns into something quite different.

3. Robert Hicks' The Widow of the South tells the story of real-life Carrie McGovack, a lonely Southern woman who had the misfortune to own the land upon which the bloody Battle of Franklin was fought. Her house had already been commandeered as a field hospital but rather than fleeing the scene (like I would have), she commits herself to burying the hundreds of Confederate dead that dot her front yard. She maintains the cemetery for the rest of her life.

4. I have to be honest: I have yet to read My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira, but that has nothing to do with its quality. This has been on my TBR list for a while, so I felt comfortable including it in my list. This highly-acclaimed novel follows the adventures of a young mid-wife, who takes full advantage of the carnage of the Civil War to learn the art of practicing medicine.

5. I would be remiss if I did not include The North and South trilogy, mainly because I loved them so much when I read them as a teenager. (I read as many John Jakes novels as I could get my chubby hands on when I was 13. I still remember the uproar in my 7th grade math class when I whipped out The Bastard after I had finished (failing) a test. Too funny.) This isn't high literature, friends, but these novels are very entertaining. Good for the beach, actually. Anyway, the trilogy follows the Mains and the Hazzards - one family Southern, the other Northern - whose close ties are tested by the devastating war. (The mini-series is fun, too.)

6. Alright. We'll add ONE Gone With the Wind spin-off. Donald McCaig's Rhett Butler's People was a satisfying extenuation of GWTW, and the only novel to get the seal of approval from the Margaret Mitchell estate. Though it is called a sequel, it's best described as a re-telling of GWTW from Rhett's perspective. It's safe to say that this isn't what Margaret would have written, but it's a fun glimpse at the "tomorrow" cliffhanger at the novel's conclusion and is sure to delight GWTW fans.

Do you have others you think should be added? I'm always in the mood for a good Civil War novel. Leave your reccs in the comments.

2 comments:

  1. Sarah, lovely blog & provocative post. You've left out Geraldine Brooks' March, which is awfully good. (What Papa March was doing while Meg, Jo, Beth & Amy were at home with Marmee.)

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  2. I did leave that one out! Thank you, Carol! I haven't read it, but will have to do that soon.

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