Inman, a wounded Confederate soldier, leaves the hospital before he can be sent back to the front lines and begins the long journey to his sweetheart in the hills of North Carolina. Along the way, he meets both outlaws and kindly strangers and each of them become part of his story. As Inman travels through the mountains he draws strength from the natural beauty that surrounds him, even as he hides from those who would send him back to the war. His sweetheart, meanwhile, has problems of her own. Raised as a Charleston society belle, Ada knows nothing about operating the farm. With the men off to war, she must learn to be self-sufficient. After a rocky beginning, and with the help of a drifter named Ruby, she eventually learns to wring a living from the land. Cold Mountain is the story of two parallel journeys: Inman’s physical trek across the Blue Ridge Mountains and Ada’s voyage of self discovery.
What the Armchair Critics Thought:
The Armchair Critics had a range of opinions about this book. The violent descriptions of the war were upsetting to some readers, however most felt that the story was a wonderful one. We noted its similarity to the Odyssey, with its long journey involving a series of encounters along the way. We especially enjoyed Ruby’s blunt mannerisms and capable ways. Most of Armchair Critics identified more with Ada’s story. We were somewhat disappointed with the ending. A lot of hard slogging with little pay-off! Cold Mountain contains a quote from the poetry of Han-Shan a Buddhist poet and philosopher. Connie read from a copy of Han-Shan’s book, (also called “Cold Mountain”), and we discussed the similar themes of the quest for enlightenment, and the simple enjoyment of living in the midst of Nature. We enjoyed the lovely descriptions of places and events. Much research has obviously gone into the crafting of the book -from the methods of cooking and hunting to the period vocabulary used by Frazier (who must own a 1700’s thesaurus!).