Literature and War Readalong January 31 2014: The Black Flower by Howard Bahr

The Black Flower

As I wrote in my introductory post to this year’s readalong, I was at first tempted to include only books based on WWI but decided against that for numerous reasons. In the first readalong I had included two novels on the American Civil War, one of which had to be removed from the list as 2011 was the first year of the German Literature Month and I wanted to add a German novel in November. The novel on the American Civil War that we read in 2011 and which impressed me a great deal was Cold Mountain and when Kevin (The War Movie Buff) mentioned he’d just read another novel on the American Civil War that he found just as compelling, I decided, to include said novel at a later date. So it’s thanks to Kevin that we’re reading The Black Flower this year. I must say I’m very eager, not only because I hope we will like it, but because I’m glad to return to the American Civil War. This book is the first in a series of three books that are dedicated to that war and I’m sure it will be interesting to see how these very different novels will approach the subject. At first I thought that Bahr might have been inspired by Cold Mountain but since both books were published in 1997, I’d say that wasn’t the case.

Howard Bahr was a school teacher before he started to write. The Black Flower  was his first novel. He’s written other novels since then and they all received awards.

Here are the first sentences

Bushrod Carter dreamed of snow, of big, round flakes drifting like sycamore leaves from heaven. The snow settled over trees and fences, over artillery and the rumps of horses, over the men moving in column up the narrow road. A snowflake, light and dry as a lace doily, lit on the crown of Bushrod’s hat; when he made to brush it away, he found it was not snow but hoe cake dripping with molasses.

And  some details and the blurb for those who want to join

The Black Flower by Howard Bahr (US 1997), American Civil War, Novel, 272 pages

The Black Flower is the gripping story of a young Confederate rifleman from Mississippi named Bushrod Carter, who serves in General John Bell Hood’s Army of Tennessee during the Civil War battle that takes place in Franklin, Tennessee, in November 1864. Written with reverent attention to historical accuracy, the book vividly documents the fear, suffering, and intense friendships that are all present on the eve of the battle and during its aftermath. When Bushrod is wounded in the Confederate charge, he is taken to a makeshift hospital where he comes under the care of Anna, who has already lost two potential romances to battle. Bushrod and Anna’s poignant attempt to forge a bond of common humanity in the midst of the pathos and horror of battle serves as a powerful reminder that the war that divided America will not vanish quietly into the page of history.


The discussion starts on Friday, 31 January 2014.

Further information on the Literature and War Readalong 2014, including all the book blurbs, can be found here.

24 thoughts on “Literature and War Readalong January 31 2014: The Black Flower by Howard Bahr

  1. I’ve already seen this book added to people’s start of the year reading plans, so the war readalong is off to a great start. I will be very interested to read the discussion as always!

  2. It’s weird if the book is so newish and award-winning I couldn’t get a copy unless I went with an audio. Oh, well, I have it now and am looking forward to joining in!

  3. I’m really looking forward to this as well. I haven’t read much at all about the Civil War, so it will be a very nice change of pace. Also it has been on my own TBR pile for years–maybe since it first came out in paper. Good choice!

    • I’m very curious to see how it will compare. i don’t think it’s quite as literary as Cold Mountain but it should be good.
      It didn’t get a lot – or rather any – attention in Europe.

  4. This first readalong book is quite interesting, Caroline. I love the cover and the description. I liked the first passage too. I haven’t read ‘Cold Mountain’ but have seen the movie version and liked it. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and the thoughts of other participants on this book. Happy reading!

  5. Though I am a bit too bogged down with several collaborative projects to join you on this one, this book looks very good. I have heard that this novel was very powerful and well written. I look forward to reading what everyone has to say about it.

    • Don’t worry, there are 11 other novels to choose from when there is a better time. 🙂
      I hope it’s good. I don’t really know all that much about the American Civil War, so I’m looking foward to all three books.

  6. Oh my God, this is a lot of pressure. I wish you had mentioned that I am a bit bizarre in my tastes, but not easily impressed. I strongly recommend everyone read at least as far as the wasp scene.

  7. I will never have enough time this month to read this and I’m on a book buying ban. Plus it’s not available in French. (I don’t think I can read historical novels in English, too difficult and I may miss footnotes from the translator to the French public)

    Any other idea of a Civil War novel?
    I think it would be interesting to read one set just after the war. I wonder how the American society managed to patch things up after several years of killing each other.
    It’s strange that it’s a war we don’t study in school here.

    • Well, we will be reading THe Killer Angels which won the Pulitzer and The March. Of course Cold Mountain is a great example. I don’t know any novel set just after. I’m sorry.

  8. He was a teacher? ah…it gives me hope 😉
    I really like the first paragraph and it looks promising. I have never read any book about American civil war before. Looking forward to read your review.

  9. I tend to avoid books on the Civil War because I find it so depressing that our own countrymen were killing each other. Did you know that Southerners in the U.S. call it The War Between the States or the War of Northern Aggression? I lived in Richmond, Virginia (the capital of the Confederacy) for a couple of years and was very surprised at how bitter people were about it after all these years. One of our neighbors even had a huge portrait of Robert E. Lee in his living room. It was an eye opener living there, for sure.

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