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Nostalgia: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1st Edition, 1st Printing edition (October 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307908348
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307908346
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #112,249 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

This Civil War novel by respected novelist McFarland (Prince Edward, 2004) tells the story of young Union soldier Summerfield Hayes. By switching seamlessly between harrowing scenes of combat (at the Battle of the Wilderness), wartime recreation—with an emphasis on “base ball” (apparently the contemporary usage), at which Hayes excels—and Hayes’ postbattle, disoriented wandering and later hospitalization (where his muteness is regarded as malingering), as well as his childhood and recuperation at his Brooklyn Heights home, McFarland portrays a troubled if multidimensional character. The tragically accidental loss of both parents has affected both Hayes and his sister, Sarah, with whom he has an unusual bond. The ministrations he receives from Walt Whitman add a literary touch to this deliberately paced novel, and the touchingly sympathetic characterization of Whitman will appeal to many readers, as might the “base ball.” --Mark Levine


**Washington Post Best 50 Books of the Year**

“Walt Whitman, who haunts the pages of this sensitive, ingenious, beautifully written novel, famously said that the real Civil War would ‘never get into the books.’ Nostalgia deftly explores an aspect of war little understood in Whitman’s time or in our own—the invisible wounds combat inflicts upon many of those who somehow manage to survive it.” —Geoffrey C. Ward, coauthor of The Civil War and author of A Disposition to Be Rich
“Emotionally harrowing . . . McFarland manages to find something new to say about a war that could have had everything said about it already . . . A moving account of one soldier’s journey to hell and back, and his struggle to make his own individual peace with the world afterward.”—Publishers Weekly
Praise for Dennis McFarland
“McFarland is a Divine Watchmaker of a novelist.”—Newsweek
“A writer of extraordinary sympathy and compassion that are remarkably free from sentimentality.”—Boston Sunday Globe
“McFarland is heir to the great Southern literary tradition, and his observations, however somber in import or lyrical in delivery, are always laced with a splendid appreciation of life’s absurdities.”—The Wall Street Journal
“McFarland has to be counted one of the brightest hopes for the literate American novel. I don’t think there’s a writer alive who wouldn’t like to have written some of his sentences . . . You want to compare him to Chopin or Mendelssohn more than to any particular writer.”—Hartford Courant

More About the Author

Dennis McFarland is the author of NOSTALGIA, LETTER FROM POINT CLEAR, PRINCE EDWARD, SINGING BOY, A FACE AT THE WINDOW, SCHOOL FOR THE BLIND, and THE MUSIC ROOM. His short fiction has appeared in THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR, THE NEW YORKER, PRIZE STORIES: THE O'HENRY AWARDS, BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES, and elsewhere. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts and Stanford University. He lives in rural Vermont with his wife, writer and poet Michelle Blake.

Customer Reviews

Nostalgia is a beautifully crafted novel, peopled with engaging characters.
I'm not a PTSD expert, but I'm interested in it and have read about it, and would recommend this book for anyone wanting an idea of what it's like.
Truly wonderful, both haunting and beautiful, this book will stay with long after you finish reading it.
Lauri Crumley Coates

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By cw on October 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Abandoned, battered, and lost in the wake of the Wilderness Campaign, Summerfield Hayes,a 19-year old Union soldier,finds his way to a Washington military hospital. There, amid memories of his young life in Brooklyn and his recent ordeal in the Virginia woods, and surrounded by the horrors of the ward, Hayes encounters a wound-dresser known as Walt. Walt Whitman, as McFarland imagines him, is an enigmatic but completely convincing figure whose empathy and compassion offer some hope of recovery to the broken men he serves.
McFarland's sentences are beautiful: if you tend to read too fast, as I do, you stop and reread them in order not to miss anything. The inner and outer world of the young soldier come alive on the page, allowing the reader to experience civilian life in 19th-century Brooklyn (including its baseball fields) as well as the stink of a military hospital during an agonizing Washington spring. This is a wonderful book -- highly recommended.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By MichaelDowning on October 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Riveting. The gripping and often harrowing details of the pivotal Civil War battle in Virginia's Wilderness are rendered with such precision and authority that they haunt the reader as surely as they haunt Summerfield Hayes, the young baseball ace whose brief stint in the Army of the Potomac leaves him wounded, speechless, and unable to recover the will to live. The prose is exquisite, and the arresting details that grace Summerfield's memory of the landscapes and cozy interiors of his former life heighten the tragedy of his hopeless situation, an unknown soldier wasting away among his maimed and dying comrades. But in a genuine coup, into this catastrophic gloom McFarland delivers a wry and reliably unsettling bearded man in a floppy hat--Walt Whitman. And in his compassionate presence among the casualties of war, we sense the faint but persistent heartbeat of a wounded nation, and the possibility of life within the broken spirit of a young man.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I feel grateful for the chance to review this wonderful novel, which may be the best book written on the Civil War since Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage. It certainly is up there among the best.

The perspective moves from one time to another inside the head of a young man who has been traumatized in combat during the Battle of the Wilderness in 1864. Summerfield is nineteen years old, a keen baseballer who’s been looking forward to college and then a profession and domesticity, but then he enlists, almost by impulse. There’s a reason: his sister and he are recent orphans and he’s started to find himself attracted to his sister. He needs to get away from her.

Battle proves different –certainly, less noble—than he had ever anticipated. The officers and soldiers on his aside don’t appear all that warrior-ly and dead Rebs don’t look all that different from his own companions. The noise and the smoke, the chaos and mayhem of war create a nonstop assault on the senses. He sees companions fall right beside him: he can’t save anyone. Live men turn into dead meat at the drop of a hat. The battle’s site –inside a deep forest-- is chaos too –the trees are so densely packed that you can’t see the enemy until they’re upon you and it’s all too easy to lose one’s sense of direction.

Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth goes the narrative: Summerfield at home, Summerfield in battle or preparing to go to battle, Summerfield recuperating in an Army hospital in Washington. He’s made his way there after being abandoned by his commander and he is so traumatized by what he has seen and felt that he can neither talk nor write his name. He meets a gentleman named Walt there, an unofficial hospital visitor who takes a liking to him.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dr. J. J. Kregarman VINE VOICE on December 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Nostalgia is beautifully written. Dennis McFarland's prose moves it poetic arcs. His descriptions of the first days of the Wilderness campaign in the Civil War and of early baseball games is excellent and interesting as are his description of the fate of wounded during the civil war. However the narrative moves slowly and involves so much singularly unresolved pain that I found myself hard put to pick it up again after putting it down for the evening. I could empathize with the hero, Summerfield Hayes's inner torture but not quite intellectually understand fully the reason for his particularly rapid downfall - perhaps a result of the authors habit of not telling his story straight but going back and forth with time.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Richard A. Mitchell VINE VOICE on December 28, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Let's start with the obvious. The writing in this book is absolutely terrific. The descriptions of the Battle of the Wilderness are particularly breath-taking. The depictions of early baseball "matches" are interesting.

The narrator, Summerfield Hayes, was a terrific ballplayer who enlisted in the Union Army. After three days of battle he found himself in the Army hospital suffering from what we now know as PTSD. Then one sympathetic doctor referred to it as "nostalgia"; thus the book's title. The narrator switches from accounts in the hospital to accounts of the battle (perhaps one of the most hellacious in the history of mankind) and accounts of his life before enlistment. Mixed in are dreams and hallucinations that include those involving the gruesome death of his parents. As you can see, there will not be a lot of grins and giggles.

This book reminded me of that great extra spicy dinner. The first bites are remarkably good. After a while though, the pain caused by the spiciness overwhelms the goodness of the recipe. This book was relentless in its depiction of horrific events and the psychological horror of PTSD. After 150 pages of such "spiciness", the overwhelming depressiveness overcame me and ruined the book. I found myself skimming over paragraphs and pages, thinking "Yup, more hallucination, more gruesomeness, more death, maiming, etc." It sucked the joy out of the very fine writing. Perhaps at 220 pages this would rate five stars. At 318, it was just too much for me.
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