Hilcia's Reviews > Purgatory: A Novel of the Civil War

Purgatory by Jeff Mann
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Mar 11, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: 2012-read, historical, lgbt-books, erotica, romance, fiction, impressions-blog-review, favorite
Read in March, 2012

I finished Purgatory: A Novel of the Civil War by Jeff Mann. Yes, I read this book yesterday (the Kindle edition. I'm still waiting for the print edition to arrive so I can pet the gorgeous cover, but couldn't wait to read it), and it was worth it.

The other novellas that I read during the week were also by Jeff Mann. I re-read some the short stories from his Lambda Award winning collection A History of Barbed Wire, and read his novella "Camp Allegheny" from the anthology History's Passions edited by Richard Labonte which I've had ever since it released back in November 2011. Reading both the novella and re-reading some of the short stories served as a refresher in Mann's style before reading his latest release, Purgatory.

Purgatory: A Novel of the Civil War (Bear Bones Books, 2012) turned out to be terrific blend of historical fiction and BDSM erotic romance. Jeff Mann has studied American Civil War history -- I think he eats it for breakfast, lunch and dinner along with some of that excellent Southern cooking he loves -- and in Purgatory the reader can smell and taste war, as well as the hatred, desperation, hunger, and even the ambivalence that the soldiers in this story experience in camp or on the run as they march toward Purgatory Mountain.

I love that aspect of Mann's writing, just as I absolutely appreciate the fact that he is the one author that can really make me understand why his characters need to be part of the gay BDSM bear sub-culture. He is part of this community, and his own passion and understanding for it comes forth clearly and powerfully through the pages of this novel, as well as to all his previous works. I love the unabashed passion he conveys for both the gay bear sub-culture and for his Southern roots.

But coming back to Purgatory, Mann blends aspects of BDSM seamlessly in this novel. I wondered how he would approach it in a realistic way because of the historical setting and was not disappointed. Instead of forcing the issue, Mann beautifully uses the historical setting as a platform to develop this aspect of the story. He does a terrific job of separating and showing the reader the differences between torture and the passionate, erotic, and loving aspects of BDSM. I was particularly taken with his rendering of the captive's character. Understanding his motivations as the submissive in this story is key and Mann makes certain this is unquestionably clear to the reader. Kudos all around.

Besides the highly recommended Purgatory, and the other stories I mention above, if you're interested in reading and understanding a bit more about Jeff Mann and his writings, I strongly recommend that you also read Binding the God: Ursine Essays from the Mountain South.

ETA: If you are squeamish, this book is not for you.

Grade: A-
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