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4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  3,994 ratings  ·  146 reviews
"The greatest of our Civil War novels."—The New York Times. The 1955 Pulitzer Prize-winning story of the Andersonville Fortress and its use as a concentration camp-like prison by the South during the Civil War.
Paperback, 766 pages
Published September 1st 1993 by Plume (first published 1955)
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I am curious how a work enters the Contemporary Canon. Who or what decides if any given literary piece survives beyond its publication as some type of icon, valued for its uniqueness or literary strength? And indeed, how is “uniqueness” determined or defined and by whom?

McKinley Kantor’s “Andersonville” was a hit in the wake of its publication in 1955. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1956; was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection, was well-reviewed and long remained on the best seller list. I remembe...more
Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont
Try to imagine a place worse than Dachau. It’s impossible, you say. Then imagine, if you will, Dachau just as overcrowded but without the huts, without a clean water supply, without any kind of sanitation; just a palisade with watchtowers around an open field. Imagine people, thousands of people, suffering in confined conditions under an open sky, winter and summer, the only source of water being a marshy stream which rapidly turns into a sewer, a breeding ground for maggots and disease. This is...more
Agnes Mack
This book was ridiculously awful.

The worst part was how, for the first 50 pages or so, I thought it was going to be super bad ass awesome. 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,...more
Kathy Scantle
This summer marked the 75th anniversary of the publication of Gone with the Wind and I suspect that's what got me interested in all things Civil War. Andersonville, the Pultizer Prize winning work of historical fiction written by MacKinlay Kantor, seemed a natural choice for my new interest in that period of American History. Having visited the Andersonville Prisoner of War Camp in South Georgia years ago, I already knoew a little about the horrors the Union soldiers suffered there.

Open for only...more
Carol Storm

It wasn't a terrible book, and I read all of it, which probably puts me in the minority. It was just sort of blah. As Agnes Mack said, there were so many characters that none of them ever become especially memorable.

There are other problems. While this book is not as racist as GONE WITH THE WIND, Kantor still takes a very tolerant view of slavery. All the slaveowners in the book are benign and enlightened, which is the oldest of Southern lies. One even brags that he whipped a male slave fo...more
I remember finding this book in a big old library edition at the old Kent Library. I don't know why I picked it up off the shelf; I was 15 and probably bored. But it turned out to be one of those books that has stayed with me all this time. I didn't know I'd end up living in the South at the time, but the descriptions, the characters, the details of survival, seemed so familiar and known. Maybe it was just the scope of the trauma and grief the book conveys; articulated so beautifully.
Andersonville...all hope abandon, ye who enter here. All hope was abandoned by the 45,000 Union soldiers imprisoned here. More than 12,000 would die, the ones left living, if you could call it that, limped or crawled home after war's end with what was left of their tattered spirits and broken bodies.

MacKinley Kantor spent 25 years researching and two years writing this magnum opus, and justifiably being awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

The prison itself was fact, along with the poor unfortunates impr...more
Feb 21, 2008 James rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Adolescents and adults
A powerful fictionalized depiction of the horrors of the Confederate POW camp at Andersonville during the Civil War. The soldiers there suffered a nightmare existence, a large percentage dying of disease, starvation, or exposure - not because of malice on the part of the Southern authorities for the most part, but simply because of incompetence and indifference. After the war the commanding officer of the camp was tried for what would now be termed crimes against humanity and hanged, but in the...more
Kantor's Andersonville is truly a great American novel. Yet as I read it, I could anticipate the criticisms some would have of it: it's too long (more than 700 pages), the plot isn't coherent, the topic is too depressing, etc. As I thought about those who hadn't or wouldn't like this novel, I realized that the critics just don't have the patience to work through a complicated piece of historical fiction, one that challenges the reader to keep track of characters and face a lot of unpleasantness...more
Have you ever had a book on your shelves that you know you will enjoy, except it’s sheer size makes you second guess yourself? What if I start it and it’s a slow, dull book? These thoughts and others kept me from picking up this book for years. But finally, I took the plunge, and guess what? It was fantastic!

Don’t get me wrong, it took me several weeks to finish this one. But, every page is worthy of the Pulitzer Prize it won following it’s release in 1955. The novel, set in Confederate Georgia,...more
It took me forever to finish this book. It's so long, and I constantly had to keep looking words up (mind you, I was in seventh grade), but I still found it to be a very interesting story. I love how while staying on the topic of Andersonville, Kantor played in the parts of people living in Georgia at the time and their thoughts of the war. I also, of course, loved the romance mixed into the story. The descriptions given of the living conditions in the fort, while they were horrid, really intrui...more
Jessica Gordon
I want to give this book 2.5 stars but there is no such option. This book could have been good. There are so many things that would have made it good. But alas, it just didn't work for me. When a book is 1000 pages, I expect the characters to be thoroughly developed and the plot to be, well, a plot. I think these are minimal expectations.

Each chapter in this long book features characters who re imprisoned in Andersonville during the Civil War--a horrid outdoor prison in the south. In this priso...more
About halfway into this book, I looked up some reviews of it on Several people wrote that they had read this book twenty-five or thirty years ago (it was published in the 1950s), yet it had stuck with them all this time. I am not surprised. The sheer awfulness of a 28-acre pen holding 50,000 prisoners, the horror of so many men in one place, the starvation due to lack of provisions, the thousands of deaths from easily curable diseases and infections, the filth resulting from a lack o...more
How often can you say that a book literally changed your life? This one did. My junior year in high school (30+ years ago) our teacher gave us a list of books we could read for book reports. Like many young men raised in the south, I had been raised on the story of our gentlemanly struggle for states rights against the tyranny of the north. We flew the stars and bars at parties and concerts (Bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd were popular at the time) without a thought that it could be offensive. So I ca...more
April Hochstrasser
Andersonville was the name of a Confederate prison carved out of the timber of northeast Georgia. This book was a most distressing tale of POW Unionists enclosed inside the walls of 20 acres. At one time 40,000 men were there. They were given NO shelter and the food was a half a loaf of corn bread per day, but not real corn bread. This actually had the corn cobs ground up in it and was heavy as a brick. It made most men sick to eat it. There was no clean water and the area soon became a sewer wh...more
A fundamentally fascinating history made unpalatable by the entrenched racism of the author and the reams of indigestible prose. One can often make the case that judging an author by today's mores is to retroactively judge them unfairly. In this particular instance however the entire book was poisoned as it should have been a story of incredible unflinching veracity of the horrors of war not the horrors of war seen through the patroniszing eyes of a southern apologist.

The book is epic in ambitio...more
KW in CT
I read this book as part of my Pulitzer Project. It is about the Civil War era prison known as "Andersonville".

This book sat on my nightstand for some time. Who wanted to read something like 700 pages about life in a wretched prison (so wretched, it didn't even have walls or a roof or latrines ... it was more plein air pig sty then anything else).

Books like Andersonville are one reason I am so glad that I am forcing myself to read all the Pulitzer fiction winners. I would never have chosen this...more
Roxanne Russell
When I mentioned to my Aunt Shirley that I was reading this book, she said "You could smell that story." I agreed wholeheartedly. Though it was a very long book, I could have read 750 more pages of it. Not only was the historical event fascinating and tragic, the author made every character, event and detail vivid, touching and memorable.
From the very first page, I knew I would experience this story rather than reading it passively. Many characters emerge as full human beings in this story, but...more
This book is astounding me. Its turning into one of the all-time greatest feats of narrative prose I've ever encountered. Phenomenal achievement of imagination and research. Dozens of characters; psychological and historical depth galore--in spades--even just 100 pages in. Kantor also has some ingenious descriptive tricks I've rarely--if ever seen done. He switches from one character to another; one setting to another; one conversation to another; one voice to another; one flow of thought to ano...more
RWH Housley
Mar 15, 2014 RWH Housley rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Die Hard readers only
Recommended to RWH by: Pulitzer list
MacKinlay Kantor, 1955

Whew….760 brutal pages later! Initially I thought the style was just cute, absent quotation marks, making the reader guess whether it was a thought or a spoken word; making the reader guess who the thought or word might be directed toward; making the reader guess.

Then in time it’s not so much of an issue as each reader launches his own personal protocol to automatize the guessing, but never completely certain if his automatized guess actually comported with th...more
Erik Graff
Apr 29, 2010 Erik Graff rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Americans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: literature
I read this book up at Grandmother's cottage in Michigan when I was a kid. Someone, a guest perhaps, had probably brought it up to read over their vacation. In any case, like many of the books I read in childhood, this one was just laying around and I, being daily reminded of the centennial of the War Between the States, thought it would be interesting. What it was, however, was mortifying--quite the antidote to all the films and television shows glorifying the war.
Powerful dramatic history of an incident in what was the first 'modern' war. What happened in Andersonville during the war between the states was undoubtedly a stain on the history of the US but also foreshadowed events to come in the future. The book shows how terrible events overtook the administration of the prison camp and produced inexorably a 'hell on earth' for the wretched inhabitants of the place. It is a story to shame the people who organised the camp yet there are also tales of coura...more
Dec 01, 2007 Graceann rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: historical fiction fans
Mackinlay Kantor's masterpiece about that adjunct of Hell, Andersonville Prisoner of War camp in Southwestern Georgia. His research is accurate and the story is a page-turner. Follow the novel up with a visit to the actual site; you'll never forget it.
This is a hard, hard book. Short of one of the harrowing accounts of the Holocaust or almost any battlefield, this will do to make you cherish life and your moment in history. Like war and genocide, one has to know, but it will chill you.
I tried, but just could not make it through this book. I didn't feel so bad when I found out that neither could most of the women in my bookgroup!
Harrowing, haunting... a must read.
This was a hard one to rate. Andersonville was truly a hell on earth and it is difficult to read this and know it was happening in our country, to our ancestors. Ira Claffey was the only reason I could keep reading this book. I loved his character and at times I thought he reminded me of my grandad.
Kantor writes this novel in somewhat of a series of short narratives about the people connected to Andersonville--the soldiers, the prisoners, the people living nearby. All of their stories tell how...more
This book tells the story of the infamous Confederate prison, where over 45,000 Union soldiers were held and over 13,000 died. Kantor uses fictional and historical characters, tying the story together via a fictional neighbor of the prison, plantation owner Ira Claffey. It is a very hard book to read, both for its heartbreakingly depressing story of the inhumane conditions, its length (well over 700 pages), the use of vernacular and the peculiar avoidance of quotes. While it seems odd, not using...more
Steve Woods
This is a truly great book. It in a history drawn from hell in the fashion of Bill Gammage's "The Broken Years" Australian experience in the Great War told from soldiers diaries and letters, except that if it is possible this account is far more personal, at least it was for me.

The Civil War has fascinated me since an American friend, who was my counterpart at the Pentagon during a brief stint there for the Australian Army, walked me over the battlefield at Antietam. It was a profound experienc...more
A friend of mine lent me this novel because I'm a Civil War enthusiast. While historical non-fiction is my primary interest, I had vaguely heard of this book and with "Pulitzer Prize Winner" printed on the cover, I figured it would be a worthwhile read even if it is a "fictional" history.

At the top of the critique list inside is perhaps the greatest Civil War historian Bruce Catton stating, "... best Civil War book ever...". Though over 700 pages, once I delved into Andersonville, I was captured...more
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Benjamin McKinlay Kantor, was an American journalist, novelist and screenwriter. He wrote more than 30 novels, several set during the American Civil War, and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1956 for his 1955 novel Andersonville

Kantor was born in Webster City, Iowa, in 1904. His mother, a journalist, encouraged Kantor to develop his writing style. Kantor started writing seriously as...more
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