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The Judas Field: A Novel of the Civil War Hardcover – July 25, 2006

56 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A middle-aged salesman in 1885 Mississippi, Cass Wakefield is a Civil War veteran of the Army of Tennessee, which saw action far from the leadership of Robert E. Lee, and ended, badly, at the battle of Franklin in 1864. Cass agrees to accompany a neighbor, 54-year-old terminally ill widow Alison Sansing, to Tennessee to recover the bodies of her father and brother, killed at Franklin. As they travel north, Cass's memories return with painful vividness, culminating as he walks over the scene of his army's disastrous defeat. Bahr (The Black Flower) moves back and forth between the tattered post-Reconstruction South and the war. He describes the effect of weapons on flesh in gruesome detail and brings to life a long-gone era with its strange smells, foods, fashions and principles. Though his uneducated characters often seem a little too articulate, their insights are excellent. Author of other well-regarded novels on the same period, Bahr treats the war as a natural disaster not unlike a hurricane. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In his third Civil War novel (after the highly praised The Black Flower, 1997, and Year of Jubilo, 2000), Bahr focuses not only on the carnage of battle but its horrible aftermath. Twenty years after the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, in which more than 70 percent of the estimated 8,500-plus casualties were Confederate, Alison Sansing of Cumberland, Mississippi, who's dying of cancer, asks her friend Cass Wakefield, a survivor of the conflict, to help her bring home the remains of her father and brother, who died there. Although reluctant to return to Franklin, Cass refuses the help of fellow veterans--Roger Lewellyn, his "pard," and Lucian Wakefield, a 13-year-old orphan conscript--but both show up at the battlefield, where an encounter with a crazed old man leads to tragedy. Bahr masterfully portrays ordinary men called to war whose belief in courage, honor, pride, and comrades sustains them but leaves them empty but for their terrible memories and grief. A beautifully written portrayal of the price that war exacts. Michele Leber
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; 1st edition (July 25, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805067396
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805067392
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,574,383 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Robert C. Olson VINE VOICE on October 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Magnificent! Mr. Bahr has written a wonderful, poignant, personal view of how the brutality of the Civil War affected those that lived it. War is the ultimate of human endeavors; those who have been embraced by it are changed forever. Brutality on a grand scale that brings into question the essence of the human condition. Mr. Bahr reaches into the very soul of those who have witnessed the carnage and examines how their lives are changed forever. His character development was superb. His use of the pervasive darkness of that era was stunning in its portrayal. Men fought and died not for their nation but for their beliefs in their fellow comrades. Mr. Bahr is a genius at putting into words the timeless love of men and women who lived those desperate hours. War is terrible but man's belief in himself and those who he fights beside transcends the violence of the battlefield.

I highly recommend this classic novel for anyone who wants to briefly glimpse what it is like to taste, hear, smell, and feel the horrors of the battlefield. No gratuitous violence, although the graphic nature of battle is portrayed in all its ugliness. Mr. Bahr's trilogy of the civil war is the best I have ever read on how those that lived it, dealt with its horrors. He is a master at showing how the glories of the battlefield scared an entire generation for years after the guns went silent. A must read.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Kenneth W. Noe on October 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Daniel Aaron, in The Unwritten War, lamented that the Civil War never produced a great work of fiction until, possibly, William Faulkner's works. If anyone ever updates that book, the author may come to a happier conclusion with the works of Howard Bahr. Lost in the clamor over Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain, Bahr's novel of the Battle of Franklin, The Black Flower--published the same year as Frazier's fine book--was a taut, beautiful tale that I have recommended to readers for years as the best Civil War novel I know. The excellent follow-up book, The Year of Jubilo, carried the story of Yalobusha County's Confederate sons forward to Reconstruction. Now comes The Judas Field, proving that Bahr is not just our greatest Civil War novelist, but one of our greatest modern novelists, period. Others describe the particulars of the story below, so there is no need for me to do that here. Suffice it to say that with this book, Bahr's fictional world, stretching from Mississippi to the cotton gin at Franklin, is beginning to resemble Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha. This body of work deserves ten stars.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Lamar W. Nesbit on August 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Not a necessarily a civil war buff, I had to be encouraged to read this book on its literary merit versus content. As a result,an absolutely beautifully written novel was discovered. The horrors and atrocities of the Civil War are well done but not necessarily for shock value. Bahr's character development and ability to portray the postwar southern landscape are superb. The last 100 pages have to be one of the best pieces of southern fiction - or any fiction - written in recent years.

Lamar Nesbit, Jackson, MS
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By mwendle on September 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I had read Howard Bahr's "Black Flower" and "Year of Jubilo" and liked both. "The Judas Field", however is a literary leap. This is the story of Cass and Lucian Wakefield and their return to the site of the Battle of Franklin Tennessee twenty years after the fact to recover the remains of a friend's brother and father. Along the way Mr. Bahr tells the story of this and other engagements and the fate of several characters. He writes beautifully, and his descriptions of the horrors of war are gripping. Most of all, his treatment of the spirits of the dead sets this work apart from other great Civil War novels. "Killer Angels" and "Cold Mountain" are two that come to mind. His manner of moving forward and backward in time is so smooth and seamless, you are sometimes not sure whether you are witnessing an event during the war or twenty years later. In the same way, there are time you are not quite sure whether the characters are living or the ghosts of those who died in the battles. I hope to see this title among the nominees for the Pulitzer Prize or the National Book Award or both.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Donahue on August 27, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"The Judas Field" is about MEMORY! It's about the power of godawful human conflict to wharp, to mutilate, and ultimately to destroy human lives; the lives of those who have lived through the horror of it and "survived." But survived for what? Survived how? NO ONE who faced combat, who "saw the elephant," emerged from our nation's most horrendous conflict without deep scars that lasted for whatever years remained of his life. Bahr is a master at finding, recording and describing those who made it through and what the survival cost them. His descriptive capacity is superior! When I read his works I keep saying, "Yes, yes, that must have been the way it was." In "Judas field" he gives us alcoholism and drug addiction. He also gives us deeply sympathetic characters who desperately want to do the right thing, to care, to make things right somehow. There were probably lots of young men from Iowa and Indiana who went home to lives essentially unchanged from before the conflict. In the South this was certainly not the case. One in four southern men of military age was dead. Statistically, EVERY man who served in the Southern armies and was not killed was wounded. And the world they came home to was devastated beyond anything Americans have experienced since. McMurty says the South is about memory. He's right. Read Bahr's works to know why. "Black Flower" "The Year of Jubilo" and "Judas Field" will make Southerners of anyone. Even this tranplant.
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