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The Black Flower: A Novel of the Civil War Paperback – May 5, 2000

4.5 out of 5 stars 152 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Howard Bahr compresses this moving Civil War novel into 48 hours--two short days filled with grim deaths and the prelude, at least, to a love story. First issued by a small Baltimore press in 1997,The Black Flower was nominated for four major awards, including one from the Academy of Arts and Letters, but failed to garner the attention paid to Cold Mountain. Civil War buffs will rejoice in Bahr's vivid retelling of the November 1864 Battle of Franklin, Tennessee. More to the point, The Black Flower transcends its historical fiction niche and deserves a wider audience. Confederate rifleman Bushrod Carter, the novel's protagonist, is wounded during the battle and taken to a nearby house. In this makeshift hospital, he and two childhood friends huddle together, "shivering with cold and exhaustion, ignoring the ghostly shapes still shuffling through the coiling smoke around them, calling the names of men who would never answer." Bahr has poured 20 years of research into his novel, but this haunting portrayal of suffering and death is the product not merely of historical diligence but also an impressive literary imagination. --Eugenia Trinkle --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The senseless agony of armed conflict is expertly evoked in this elegiac Civil War novel. As Bushrod Carter, a seasoned Confederate rifleman, grimly anticipates his next battle, he experiences both the mind-numbing terror and the detached resignation characteristic of most common foot soldiers. Shortly after the infamous Battle of Franklin commences, Gen. John Bell Hood's Army of Tennessee is quickly overwhelmed by the firepower of the superior Union forces. Before succumbing to his own wounds, Carter bears witness to the grim aftermath of combat as he roams through the carnage haunted by the visages of his departed comrades and horrified by the gruesome reality of the slaughter. The mournful tone of the narrative serves to underscore the powerful drama of this harrowing tale. Margaret Flanagan --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; First Edition edition (May 5, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312265077
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312265076
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (152 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #698,815 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By K. Sterling on April 25, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I don't know how this one slipped through the cracks. I am a student of the War and fairly widely read, yet I have never encountered a work of Civil War fiction that moved me the way "The Black Flower" has. Truly a masterpiece. The language is exquisite, the characters well drawn and believable. Unlike in "Cold Mountain," I have been unable to find any historical inaccuracies. Bushrod, Jack, Virgil C., and Anna became as real to me as my best friend. They made me laugh, cry, and love them all, and I was immensely sorry when this well-crafted book ended. Surely someone should turn this story into a feature film. After reading this, I will read anything by Mr. Bahr, no questions asked.
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Format: Paperback
Many people who read this book when it was first released by a small publishing company were certified Civil War buffs. It seems that word then began leaking out by word of mouth through their spouses and "regular" (i.e. NOT CW fanatics) friends that this was quite a good book for even "the masses". Four major literary award nominations in quick succession didn't hurt either!
You can count me in as one of those "regular" folks. I've read and adored "The Red Badge of Courage" and "The Killer Angels" but, have not found myself obsessed with the Civil War era genre of historical fiction. I appreciate well written material that will hold my attention and am not a slave to literary trends or best-seller lists. A good friend's constant raving about how great this book was is what caused me to put it on my reading list. Needless to say by my five-star rating, "The Black Flower" did not disappoint!
First and foremost, this 267 page book is just plain FUN to read. It is not over-detailed or dumbed down but, manages to walk the fine line keeping you steadily turning the pages. There are no maps or need to draw a flowchart to remember all the characters, nor do you need a Masters in American History to understand what is going on. The writing style is such that you feel you are WATCHING the events rather than reading a book and you almost become emotionally involved with the events and characters. I drove through the battlesite in Tennessee once on vacation before reading this book and would now very much like to return.
Definitely click on the "Back cover" link Amazon provided above for an excellent plot summary. The average reader will likely find this book to be "5 star". Real literate types will hand out four while the most brutal critics will still give three stars. Basically, you can't go wrong with this book especially now that it is available in paperback! GO FOR IT!!!
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Format: Paperback
This book is sheer poetry masquerading as a Civil War novel. No matter how gruesome the subject matter of the moment, Howard Bahr manages to take it beyond your mind and into your heart -- you understand what he's writing with your soul. His description of the army as a living breathing entity unto itself as it goes into battle, is masterful and helps those of us who have never experienced battle to have an inkling of what makes normal men able to fight and kill. The interactions involving Bushrod and the other characters who have such a strong effect on his life are beautiful and touching. The Black Flower truly brings the horrors of war and death to life, you can virtually feel the characters' pain and smell the smells that surround them. But the beauty of the writer's language pulls the reader on and on no matter what the horrors may be. You care so much about these characters that you must go on. This book will be right up there on the top of my all time list of recommended favorites. If I could give it higher rating than a ten I would.
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Format: Hardcover
Fans of Civil War literature who are weary of reading the many books out there about major military leaders and their campaigns, battles, weapons, tactics and strategies will discover something of great value in "Black Flower: A Novel of the Civil War." The author, Howard Bahr, applies his narrative skills to a haunting and memorable depiction of the slaughter and carnage of war and its harrowing effects on the common soldier. We briefly discover Bushrod Carter, a 26-year old Confederate soldier from Mississippi and his "pards" preparing for the 1864 Battle of Franklin, Tennessee and then find them again after the battle is over, changed forever. Descriptions of the horrors of war, the wounded and their medical treatment, the nightmare scenes in the plantation house commandeered as a hospital, the tragedies of the lives affected, all serve to make "Black Flower" a most powerful and emotional novel
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Format: Paperback
I just finished THE BLACK FLOWER and can strongly recommend it, beautifully written with surprises of imagination on every page. Bahr's powerfully realized prose reminded me of the great Kenneth Roberts, in his strong dialogue and the way he can bore down so many levels into the minds of the impossibly brave men who inhabit his battlefield. The book's structure is really striking, three great set-pieces -- the first long section brings us onto the field of battle before the battle begins, a brutal stand-off in a clearing in the woods closes the book, and in the middle section a scary, scary glimpse of hell unfolds, in a southern manor house turned hospital the night after the battle. Bahr is at the top of his powers in this harrowing section. Scarlett O'Hara had a crane to carry the camera far away from her trip through the body-strewn Atlanta train yard, but there is none here and you feel you can't escape from the dark house, teeming with dying men and real danger everywhere. Bahr blends this artful imagery with real specificity when taking us into the minds of his hero and heroine. Belongs on the shelf with Crane and Remarque.
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