Have you ever had a book on your shelves that you know you will enjoy, except it’s sheer size makes you second guess yourself? What if I start it and it’s a slow, dull book? These thoughts and others kept me from picking up this book for years. But finally, I took the plunge, and guess what? It was fantastic!
Don’t get me wrong, it took me several weeks to finish this one. But, every page is worthy of the Pulitzer Prize it won following it’s release in 1955. The novel, set in Confederate Georgia, is about the infamous Andersonville prison. What I knew prior to reading the book was that it was large, crowded and most of the inmates died there from disease. I learned so much from this amazing work of historical fiction.
Kantor cleverly introduces you to characters in their home setting first. You get to know them and care for them, and them follow them on their journey into captivity. You feel their pain when they must sell some of their belongings for necessaries, before they even set foot in Andersonville. You cringe, when upon arrival, they are attacked by gangs of thugs for their last few possessions. You shake your head in disgust, as the rations are too small, and unfit for consumption anyway. And finally, you weep when each poor man meets his end.
It is really done so well. The prose, the introspection, and the stories that make sure you will never forget what took place in Andersonville Prison. It is heartbreaking and haunting, but it is also strangely uplifting. Kantor does not neglect to feed his readers a sense of hope, as he connects the characters in the book. He makes sure you understand that there is no North and South; no right and wrong in this war. There are only humans and our capacity for true humanity.
5 stars (out of 5)
Published in 1955