When you live in a foreign country, finding books to read in your own language can be difficult. But these days we have Amazon who provide a wonderful, fast service and we are lucky to have two other sources to hand. Firstly, our family and friends - who as part of their visiting rituals bring along their reads on condition that they leave them and pick replacements from our shelves. The second is that we have discovered a small library of English books provided by a local Italian Osteria. There is no charge for this service and you don't even have to return the book you borrowed, just as long as you leave something in its place. Not half bad at all.
Cold Mountain by Charles FrazierYou must all remember the film - Jude Law (sigh), Nicole Kidmand and Renee Zellwegger? Now the only bit I can remember is when Renee Zellwegger caught the rooster which had attacked Nicole and broke its neck. Next shot was a big boiling pot of rooster. It's taken me some time to finish this book - well over my one week target. Now part of that has been just down to me - I've sort of struggled to keep on top of it. Another reason is its style. It took me some time to get used to it. There are no speech marks, nothing to delineate dialogue and I found that a little startling and if I'm honest, it almost spoilt it for me. I suppose it's what we get used to but with a little time I soon learnt who was talking out loud and when but it does read a little like a child would write - but only in style.
Charles Frazier is a good story teller, and in Cold Mountain he follows the lives of one man and one woman during the American Civil War. The chapters alternate between the two main characters - a style I like because it helped me understand them. They were clearly set in my mind, helped by the images of Jude Law (another sigh) and Nicole Kidman. Inman, the male character has met and already fallen in love with Ada (Nicole). We are told about his love for her as we follow his journey from a nearly fatal injury sustained in the war and his treck across the country to return to her. It is her and his love for her that keeps him going and which helps him to survive. Inman started life as a fairly level headed, gentile man, but war changes how he views his world and he doesn't let anything stand in the way of his objective. Which is to return to Ada.
Ada is a preachers daughter who lived a very enviable life before the death of her father. They moved to Cold Mountain because of his ill health and after a ropy start with the locals, they began to share his faith with the community. Ada had barely to lift a finger, preferring to draw, and paint and generally live the life of a lucky young lady. She responds to Inman and is equally attracted but their quest for love is interrupted by the war. Ada has to learn to survive after she discovers that her father did not make the preparations to allow her to continue her accustomed lifestyle. She struggles and you almost believe that she will starve to death as she has no idea how to provide for herself. And then comes along Ruby (Rene) who shows her how getting her hands dirty is the only way to go. Ruby has not experienced the fineries that Ada has and wouldn't thank her too either. All she expects is to be treated equally and that she isn't there to empty anyone elses bed pot.
There are some shocking violent scenes, typical of the impact of war and the cruelty of man when he is threatened. But also there are some very tender scenes, one involving an old goat woman whom Inman stumbles upon in the woods. The scene when Ada and Inman are reunited was particularly beautiful - it brought tears to my eyes and I so wanted to believe in the happy ever after. Thank god I couldn't remember the film, because I would have been disappointed.
It's a great read - far better than the movie because it is memorable. The images and emotion which Frazier creates is far more dramatic to my mind than anything visual could possibly be. And I would read it again, for now I'm familiar with his style I'll spend more time on the story.