Good Reading : June 2011
22 goodreading ı JUNE 2011 categorical Suffice to say that this is a haunting, well-written, beautiful story. Ignore the film. The muddy morality of ante- and post-bellum Southern society was dissected with unique insight by one of America's best writers, William Faulkner, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949. His 1936 novel Absalom, Absalom! chronicles the tangled saga of the Sutpen family, including the four years of their involvement with the Confederacy. It's an atmospheric story of the stifling, incestuous and racist South that has stayed with me since I first read it at university in 1967. In the December 2006/January 2007 issue of gr I reviewed a great Civil War novel by E L Doctorow called The March, runner-up for the Pulitzer in 2006. It's a fictionalised account of General William Tecumseh Sher man's notorious march through Georgia.The march itself, I wrote, 'sweeps the reader along, the "mindless mass rage" of war brought home in telling detail. Doctorow doesn't shy away from the uneasy, wary relationship between black and white on both sides, either. A great read.' Like all greedy-guts, I've saved the best until last. Thomas Keneally, one of Australia's Living National Treasures, published Confederates in 1979. It's a marvellous novel, a combination of triangular love story between a Confederate soldier, his beautiful wife and a Union-sympathiser (but Rebel conscript), and Confederate General Thomas 'Stonewall' Jackson's Shenandoah Volunteers as they fight and stagger their way from the Battle of Cedar Mountain to the ter rible events at Antietam Creek. Keneally's ability to replicate authentic- sounding vernacular speech, nant empathy with the doomed Southern boys and his blood-curdling descriptions of battle combine to make this one of the outstanding Civil War novels of all time. But the final accolade must go to Michael Shaara's The Killer Angels, a fictionalised account of Gettysburg, the pivotal battle of the Civil War, which won the author the Pulitzer Prize in 1975. Shaara is a past master at conveying the terrible excitement, the sheer contrary joy of battle in prose so immediate you feel part of the action, no matter how bloody.The adrenaline pumps as you read this blow-by-blow account of this shocking battle. An interesting coda to The Killer Angels is that the prequel, Gods and Generals, and the sequel, The Last Full Measure, were both written by Michael Shaara's son, Jeff, and were well received when published in the 1990s. Any good novel set in a war will leave you crying and grieving as the inevitable tragedy, pain and loss hit home. But war novels also celebrate the best of humanity: comradeship, courage, sacrifice, tenderness, patriotism and passion. Read these novels, weep and rejoice. terrible excitement ... of battle in prose so immediate you feel part of the action, no matter how bloody. Hand-coloured lithograph by Currier and Ives depicting the Battle of Cedar Mountain, 9 August 1862. Hand-coloured lithograph by Currier and Ives depicting the Battle of Gettysburg, fought 1—3 July 1863.