Antof9's Reviews > Cold Mountain

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
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's review
Jan 07, 2009

it was ok
bookshelves: 2004-read, americana, depressing, forgettable, southern, unfulfilling

There is no back-of-the-book description, so I'll just say that it takes place in the South, near the end of the Civil War. The main characters are Inman, a wounded soldier trying to make his way home to Cold Mountain; Ada, a grown-up orphan with no farm skills but lots of "accomplished lady" skills; and Ruby, an unschooled but land-educated "hired girl who isn't a hired girl" who presents herself to Ada to help around the place.

There are MANY ancillary characters, whose lives intersect one or more of the three main people, lots of land, food, and killing descriptions, and one can imagine that the cinematography in the movie is amazing, given the author's descriptions.

This is the kind of book that certainly gives one an appreciation for big and little conveniences in life -- fridge, oven, blankets, etc.

My book review:
First, don't ever read this while eating. There are way too many (well-written) descriptions of wounds, deaths, animals, etc. in this book to read it while eating. Consider yourself warned.

The friend who gave me this book said she just couldn't get into it. I finished it last night, and realized that I never did get into it! The title for this book is actually very apt, as it is definitely "cold". There is little warmth or beauty in this book. I wasn't particularly moved, nor entertained, and I didn't really care about any of the characters. Even though I spent a whole book with them, I still didn't really feel like I knew any of them very well.

One of my criterion for good writing is if the author's descriptions are "descriptive" to me. And these definitely were! I could smell the campfire, see the fog on the mountainside, and definitely felt cold during the snowstorm. But as descriptively awesome as it was, I still didn't really like it.

I liked Inman MUCH better than Ada. There was little sympathetic about her character, and I would have liked to have known Ruby better.

The interesting thing to me is that I've been waiting and waiting to watch this movie until I read the book, but now that I have, I'm not sure I want to bother. I also forced myself not to check the IMDB database on this movie to see who played what parts, so I wouldn't picture those actors in my head, rather than the characters the author drew. I can't describe the disappointment when I went to the website (click on "movie" in this paragraph) and found who had played which character. Jude Law as Inman?! Nicole Kidman as Ada? I could maybe -- just maybe -- see Renée Zellweger as Ruby, but even that was a stretch. And so, I think I won't bother with the movie. I've spent enough time as it is on this book!

As I wrote this, I was thinking of the "descriptive" part, and how by my definition, I'd call this a well-written book. Unfortunately, though, I don't think it is, really. As a reader who loves books, an author has to try hard for me NOT to like their work. In this case, I just couldn't get into it, and so have to score it low. Back to my previous thoughts: I was thinking about my friend fsr44, and how much I enjoyed her novel. It's not in "official book" form yet, but it had amazing, draw-you-in descriptions, sympathetic people (and each chapter was a different vignette! I didn't even have a whole book to know them!), and in the end, it moved me, it contained beauty, it entertained me, and I continue to feel drawn to it. . .months after putting it down. I know this doesn't have a thing to do with Cold Mountain, but they are thoughts that went through my head as I wrote this journal entry. This book, on the other hand, will be gone from my head in about another 4 hours. Interesting.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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Lisa I hope you did watch the movie. I agree the book is too descriptive--is that what the experts use to determine "real literature"?
I have seen the movie and now I am listening to the audio book which helps me through the description. I loved the movie and I am enjoying the audio book.
What you need to do is put yourself there in history. What was the goal of a Charleston parent? To raise an accomplished daughter.
The author is in no way condoning that goal. Think of Jane Austen--she pointed out the frivolousness of society in her stories. I think it is the same here.
There are a lot of lessons to learn here. We live in a different time, but do we concentrate our efforts on the wrong things?
Just a thought. Watch the movie when it comes on TV and at least get to the part with Ruby--the most interesting person in the story to me. If you feel like turning it off then, you have lost little.

Antof9 Lisa -- thanks for your comment! I never did watch the movie -- I just truly saw no hope there, which is one of my "things" about movies. I need hope! I agree with you wholeheartedly on the raising a daughter thing, and no; I didn't think it was being condoned at all. In fact, I thought the author did a great job of painting just how pathetic it was. That said, in being so effective in doing that, she just made more unlovable characters for me...

But, I will pay attention to it if it ever airs on TV, or if I can watch it for 'free' from Netflix via the instant viewing mechanism on the XBox! That won't cost me anything, and I'm willing to invest a little bit on it, based on your recommendation. Thanks!

Valerie I know this is an old review but I wanted to second Lisa's comment about the movie. I'm only 15% through the book and not really enjoying it so far, but I have seen the movie, several times. It is definitely worth watching, if only for Renee Zellweger's portrayal of Ruby. She does a wonderful job of bringing that character to life.

Antof9 Interestingly, this movie came up in conversation with friends last night! My friend was saying how irritated he was at the movie because the guy spends the whole movie trying to get back to the girl, and then of course dies. He asked if I'd seen it. I honestly couldn't even remember the story -- just that I'd been so irritated at the book that I hadn't bothered with the movie, and two that I'd been so cold reading this book that I actually read much of it in the bathtub. And that was the extent of it.

Funny to now see your comment, Valerie! I honestly don't think I'm going to look for this movie, but I promise you both that if I do stumble across it on tv that I'll not change the channel!

Valerie Good enough!

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