Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Five outstanding novels on the Civil War era

David W. Blight is Class of 1954 Professor of American History at Yale University. His books include American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era.

For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of novels about the Civil War era. One title on the list:
by Toni Morrison (1987)

With slavery and its legacy the focus of Toni Morrison's "Beloved," the book is a Civil War novel of the first order even though it is set in 1873. The tale focuses on a former slave named Sethe, who escaped to Ohio before the war from a Kentucky farm called Sweet Home. When it seemed that she was about to be recaptured, Sethe committed a horrifying act of infanticide to save her baby from enslavement. The baby haunts this masterly work, a "ghost story" that probes to the darkest heart of dehumanization, as well as the human will to survive the worst of human oppression. Morrison's great theme—the nature of memory—leaves us with a sense that historical and personal memory are matters of overwhelming burden but also of human choice. The book ultimately is a challenge to the nation itself to consider its burden and its choices as the maker and destroyer of slavery.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Beloved also appears on John Mullan's list of ten of the best births in literature and Kit Whitfield's top ten list of genre-defying novels, and at the top of one list of contenders for the title of the single best work of American fiction published in the last twenty-five years.

Also see: Ten best novels about the American Civil War.

--Marshal Zeringue