Monday, June 27, 2011

Review: The Judas Field: A Novel of the Civil War, Howard Bahr

by Howard Bahr
July 2007
$14.00, $16.25 CAN, pb
304 pp.

Review by Wisteria

The Judas Field is an astounding work of historical fiction that will rip deep into your heart and settle into your soul like a haunting bad dream.    Howard Bahr provides a sharply detailed journalistic view of The Battle of Franklin through the eyes of Cass Wakefield, a soldier who is unable to reconcile the past.  His life is empty and emotionless, haunted by memories he would rather forget. When a childhood friend asks him to recover her kin who died in the infamous battle, he reluctantly agrees to help.

The Judas Field, is based on the events surrounding the actual Battle of Franklin.  It has been called, “The Gettysburg of the West.” and lasted only about five hours. It took place in the yard of the Carter Family, while the family hid in the house during the fight. When silence settled over the area, the casualties combined were over 9,000.

As you travel north to Tennessee from Mississippi with Cass,  the reader will without a doubt empathize with Cass when his painful past insinuates itself into the safe cocoon of reflection he prefers. Uninvited images flash momentarily. War is loud. The repeated pounding and thunderous cacophony of canon fire and the constant ping and ring from ricochetted stray bullets whiz capriciously overhead. The ammunition is meant to kill and maim and bayonets are drawn.   Sometimes, when a prayer is answered a bedraggled soldier will be spared.  It doesn’t matter which side, the bullets and cannonballs originate, they are meant to kill, meant to deafen the sensitive ears and meant to produce the piles of bloody bodies that carpet the hellish landscape. All sense of beauty erased as the scavengers claim clothes, shoes, food and weapons from the dead.

War is quiet. The animals know to flee. The residents of the house disappear from view. as their property and yard become a battlefield. They huddle in a cellar, a barn, or escape to a cave or copse of trees, any shelter in hopes they will be spared. This is ground zero and a there is a still, eerie quiet , so quiet it is as both sides stopped breathing.  The stillness hovers over terrified soldiers as they wait for the engagement of another day. One of many that they have seen and one of the many they will face again.

Howard Bahr has a wondrously rich and picturesque style.  You can’t get much closer to being a true witness than you will with the acutely sensitive descriptions that make his story tangible.  Howard Bahr’s writing allows the reader to visualize, hear and feel the battle. You will witness a slaughter from the soldiers’ point of view. You will see the the nefarious images they encounter of the dead and grossly maimed. It is an unworldly place to be.  Likewise he is sensitive to the emotional pain and thoughts of his characters with phrases that will wrap around you like a warm hug. His prose is poetry.

It is the memories of those who survived, yet are slowly dying of the past that this story is about. The journey, whether the past will win is what makes this story so unique. If you have not read The Judas Field, it comes with my recommended high praise.  I will treasure my copy.

Special note to bloggers who are participating in the 2011 Civil War Challenge at War Through the Generations will want to read this one.

 I purchased my copy of this book while traveling in Gettysburg.

© [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2008-2011].


Sarah at SmallWorld said...

Sounds fantastic. I'm adding this to my TBR, thanks!

Anna said...

This sounds great! I'm playing this challenge by ear, but I'll definitely keep this one in mind.

I've scheduled your review to appear on War Through the Generations on Aug. 31.

wisteria said...

Small World...A worthwhile add!
I can't wait to read his other books.
Anna....Thanks, I'll mark it down.

Cheryl Gebhart said...

Fabulous review. I'm reading The Black Flower, also by this author, right now, and am really liking it. It's very well written, which it sounds like. This one is too. I may have to check this one out as well.

wisteria said...

Hi Cheryl, Thank you for the praise. I have The Black Flower and hope to read it soon. Knowing you like it...I will try to move it up sooner. So many books...right?

wisteria said...

Small World...I do hope you get to read this one. :)

Anna...Thanks for posting the other review. PS...I have not been well..hence the limited posts. Thanks for asking.