Monday, October 15, 2007

Ghost Riders

My father, who never reads novels, has been after me for a while to read Ghost Riders by Sharyn McCrumb. In this last year ha has taken up the reading of novels, and has been reading everything by Ms McCrumb.

Ghost Riders is set in North Carolina, bopping back and forth from the 1860's to today. It is a story about the Civil War in the North Carolina mountains, and the effects that the war continues to have today. This is what you might want to call "historical fiction" since the setting of the story is very real, as are the main characters: Zebulon Vance and Keith and Malinda Blalock. She does a great job blending their stories to make a powerful message about war. Malinda's comment in the book is one that we can learn from today: "wars are easier to start than they are to stop."

But for me, the most interesting part of the book was the discussion on how war had changed. Zeb Vance was distraught at the way some confederates killed innocent men and boys, and even more distraught at the lack of interest in the issue from the war department. McCrumb has Vance quoting letters from Lord Cornwallis during the revolutionary war --- demanding that soldiers who burned civilian homes be brought to justice, he also quotes Robert E. Lee right before Gettysburg, when he demanded that his troops not wage war on civilians. Unfortunately in the mountains of North Carolina, those requests fell on deaf ears. There was no civility in the Civil War in the Appalachian Mountains.

I have to admit, that I am a student of the Civil War. I have close to 400 books on the war, and part of my desire to study in the south was to learn more about this war that has never really ended. Nancy's family farm was part of Sherman's encampment just outside Newton Grove, NC (battle of Bentonville). That certainly attracted me to this book. I also was very aware of the towns and places that are the settings for this story.

If you want a good, complex story (or many stories --- since she weaves together 4 or 5 story lines) I would highly recommend Ghost Riders. It was quick and enjoyable reading.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'll give this a try. The book I was mentioning to you tonight was Liberating Paris. I think you'd enjoy it.