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The Black Flower:
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 [via]