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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Cold Mountain

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:

August 4, 2004

I made the mistake of watching the movie before reading the book, so along the way I was always comparing the two. I can honestly say the book trumps the movie in that it does not have Rene Zellweger's Ruby, who was in my opinion the single most obnoxious character on film since Jar Jar Binks, but of course the movie (like any decent movie adpatation) moves the story along at a better pace than the book. Fans of casual romances would be better served by watching the movie for just that reason.

Anyway, as for the book itself, I enjoyed Frazier's writing, although I wish he hadn't spent so much time dwelling on what everyone was eating or about the plants all around the characters and spent more time developing his characters. Contrary to popular belief, Inman didn't walk away from the Confederate Army so much for Ada, but because he was tired of the killing and wanted to go home. She was more of a secondary concern and it never did seem there was a great emotional connection between them, even at the end when they are reunited, albeit briefly.

The one area where the movie did a better job was in building up that relationship between them, so it was a journey he undertook for the sole reason of being with her. That kind of emotion was lacking in the novel and while I was glad it wasn't a stereotypical sappy yarn about love, I didn't feel much emotion while reading the book and that's too bad, because the story had potential to really grab me.

Frazier's writing is great in terms of description of the world in 1864-65, so that I felt I had a good sense of how life really was like back then. He really did make the South seem like a dark, mystical place and that, even though I knew how the story went from watching the movie, was why I kept reading. But again, for as well as he did on descriptions of farm life, meal preparation, and landscapes, he didn't do enough to develop the characters. We know a lot about Ada and Ruby's pasts, but Inman's seemed hazy. We as readers might have better felt Inman's change because of the war if we'd had a better sense of what he was like beforehand. Most of the supporting cast was flat, especially Teague and his henchmen, who were never given any detail at all. The goat lady and Veasey were interesting and I wished (in both movie and novel) Veasey could have hung around longer because he was such a contrast to the gloomy Inman.

Still, as emotionally dead as this novel sometimes seemed, it is still a tremendous effort by Frazier and worth the read just for the descriptions of how life really was back then. The movie is also worth watching, although if you're like me, you'll want to mute Rene Zellweger's shrill portrayal of Ruby, who had a lot more depth in the book.

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