I finished Cold Mountain today, a book I had been reading off and on for the past three days. The book had been mentioned in passing by my writing instructor, and someone else in the writing group had mentioned it, too. I had never heard of the novel, but while searching through my favourite used book store here in Ajijic, the title leaped up at me.
“An excellent book,” the cashier said, as I passed over the five pesos.
The synopsis didn’t really appeal to me. I’m not into civil war stories, or even historical novels, to be honest, but to come across it after rave reviews seemed an omen.
Before I delved into the story, I read everything else between the cover and on the back cover. I was intrigued by the author, Charles Frazier. Cold Mountain is his first novel, published in 1997, and was at the top of The New York Times best-seller list for sixty-one weeks. It won numerous literary awards, including the National Book Award. The 499-page book is loosely based on his great-great uncle.
It never ceases to amaze me the writers that can produce a best seller on their first try.
I enjoyed the book. The descriptions were wonderful, phrases I wish I could come up with. The wording felt ancient, like the story had been written back during the civil war, not in the 1990s, and not by an author my age.
The writer in me picked up instances of repeated words throughout the book, like “scrabbled,” a word I had never heard previously, but it fit. Frazier used a lot of “could hear” or “could see”—phrases I’ve been taught to avoid—rather than using the more direct “heard” and “saw.” The author’s a bit long-winded at times, as well, but the book was still a terrific read.