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Confederates [Mass Market Paperback]

Thomas Keneally
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 1983
With a new introduction by Thomas Keneally. 'The best novel of the Civil War since The Red Badge of Courage' Newsweek As the Civil War tears America apart, General Stonewall Jackson leads a troop of Confederate soldiers on a long trek towards the battle they believe will be a conclusive victory. Through their hopes, fears and losses, Keneally searingly conveys both the drama and mundane hardship of war, and brings to life one of the most emotive episodes in American history.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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'A fine and compelling novel' Financial Times 'It compels admiration over and over for its energy and its insight into human character' Spectator 'Deserves comparison with the great war novels of the last hundred years' Observer 'Such a magnificent book that I count it a privilege to read and keep' Books and Bookmen --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Thomas Keneally began his writing career in 1964 and has published thirty novels since. They include Schindler's Ark, which won the Booker Prize in 1982 and was subsequently made into the film Schindler's List, and The Chant Of Jimmie Blacksmith, Confederates and Gossip From The Forest, each of which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. His most recent novels are The Daughters Of Mars, which was shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize in 2013, and Shame and the Captives. He has also written several works of non-fiction, including his memoir Homebush Boy, Searching for Schindler and Australians. He is married with two daughters and lives in Sydney. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I'd intended to read this book for years (came across it in a book of good reading recommendations), but didn't start reading it till last week. It is a real page-turner, and not only held my attention as I read it but made the kiind of impact that led me, after I had finished the book, to brouse through it again.
In my opinion, it is not only a major fictional recreation of a key stage in the U.S. Civil War (basically, the months that culminated in the battle known to the north as Antietam [the south as Sharpsburg, which is how it shows up in the endpaper maps], but one of the top ten war novels that I've read over the last 50-odd years. I'd rank Keneally's CONFEDERATES just below WAR AND PEACE and Crane's RED BADGE OF COURAGE, and somewhat above Hemingway and the few good World War II novels (Mailer, Waugh, and the forgotten Russian Stalin-era novel, Simonov's DAYS AND NIGHTS).
The detail in the book, both of the feellings of soldiers in combat and of factual material (very good material on field surgery in the Confederacy - probably not hugely different than in the North, but the whole book is done, with a few exceptions, from the perspective of the "doomed cause" of the South) surpasses most of what I've read. The feel of the book (its literary quality) is interesting: it is gritty and realistic, but the rhythm and style sufficiently echoes nineteenth century writing at its best so that you really feel you are there, with men and women of that era.
I have three suggestions:
1. If you haven't read this book, get a copy and read it.
2. If you read it years ago, read it again. I've noted in my calendar to read it again in a few years. Among other things, it adds to our insight, I think (as good books often do), on situations that we are trying to understand and deal with today.
3. The publishers should bring this book back into print and movie producers (or TV) should give it serious consideration for a high-quality production.
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5.0 out of 5 stars #6 on my All-Time Top 10 Sept. 12 2003
Many Civil War novels convey the physical carnage of 19th century battle. But few transmit the moral horror of slavery and the war the way CONFEDERATES does. It seems to have taken an author from far-off Australia to get to the war's central fact: it was a battle for human liberation in which brave and devoted individual Confederates fought to preserve a horrendous system. In the course of the book, ten or so related characters endure the war's relentless meatgrinder from the Seven Days to Antietam, with few surviving in one piece. Most shocking and effective: the stories of the nurse who spies for the North, and the country boy who thinks he can't be killed. (The latter contains some truly bizarre supernatural elements which work perfectly to enhance the theme.) Lincoln's Second Inaugural says that only blood can expiate our nation's sin of slavery. CONFEDERATES shows that expiation playing out in individual lives. See also the same author's other masterpiece, SCHINDLER'S LIST.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fighting for the Cause? Sept. 9 2003
By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER
Keneally uses the high point of the Southron Confederacy as the setting for this brilliant historical novel. Reaching through the ranks, he selects a Shenandoah Valley private and his mates - "confederates" - to reveal the horrors of war with vivid reality. Usaph Bumpass moves with Stonewall Jackson's Virginians through the Valley and into the first Confederate invasion of the North. Through it all Usaph carries concerns about his "swamp tramp" Ephaphtha living at the edge of the combat area. Her loyalty, her past, her well-being, all intrude on his thoughts while he's trying to survive. Never once, however, does he question why he's in the war. The Confederacy is a miasma of conflicting values. Even natives of the South have uncertain views of what precisely is the "cause" they're fighting for. Keneally ably presents us with these variations of philosophy and the people holding them.
Equally fluent in passion or pathos, Keneally's describes battles, intrigues and romance conveyed with powerful reality. With a solid research foundation, he fashions images of people and events with superb clarity. From domestic struggles to the clash of battles, we share every emotional upheaval. Keneally portrays the intensity of war with an surprising clarity as it cuts off friend and foe alike. For a man who once trained for the priesthood, he places the reader alongside his people with deceptive ease. A master at conveying people and environment, he deserves full recognition for his talents. This book will remain a classic of Civil War literature. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Civil War canvas to rival that of Tolstoy. Sept. 8 2000
Unlike War and Peace, Confederates spurns all romanticism, employing instead the dignity of ordinary men and women and the mundane details of real life to convey the horrors of warfare with a realism perhaps unmatched in Civil War literature. With no comic relief, no hints at happy endings, and no escape from the inevitability of this nightmare, the cumulative effect of Keneally's novel is staggering.
The Confederate army we meet here consists of ragged and hungry teachers, musicians, small farmers, orphaned children, men in their 60's, conscripts, and even the sorely ill and walking wounded, who share their stories and simple dreams as they trudge resignedly and painfully across Virginia toward their destiny-the Battle of Harper's Ferry/Antietam. Despite the tactical brilliance of General Tom "Stonewall" Jackson, the battle itself eventuates in the most horrific blood-letting and soul-wrenching trauma I've ever seen described. Homely details, described in a plain, almost offhanded manner, lend great irony and bring the enormity of the carnage into focus: split-rail fences with their "crops of dead," cornfields with human remnants "lying in heaps that must be climbed," young soldiers forced to tread on "a mat of Christian boys," and the very air above the cornfield "flying with bits of the corn crop and with limbs, naked and clothed, and with haversacks and heads and hands."
I cannot imagine any Civil War novel which will affect the reader more profoundly than this one. Exhaustively researched, historically accurate, brilliantly depicted, and absolutely unforgettable, it pulses with the lives of our forebears and makes gratitude seem inadequate for their sacrifices.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars It suffers (same as Kipling's Indian Army) of written slang.
The novel is very good and it would have been five stars but for the unsoportable/tiresome (for the reader) southern slang speech of the protagonists/characters. Read more
Published on May 27 2003 by ADB
1.0 out of 5 stars Civil War softcore porn
I made a mistake with this book. I should have read the first page before buying. I don't mind if a novelist wants to reduce a Confederate general's deified historical status a peg... Read more
Published on July 14 2002
1.0 out of 5 stars Dull dull dull
I have read this book (of course) but have also met the author in a proffessional context.
May be I am a tad subjective but I found the book dull (not to the standard say of... Read more
Published on Dec 23 2001
2.0 out of 5 stars What's on Mr. Keneally's Mind?
In the first hundred pages of this novel, which is lauded for its realistic portrayal of southeners during the Civil War, there are at least two dozen references to human... Read more
Published on Nov. 2 2001
2.0 out of 5 stars Odd book
At times this book is pretty good, but at times it is border line trash. Every single female character in the book was ... . I had no idea nineteenth century women were so "easy. Read more
Published on Sept. 10 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the best.
For once, I'm in agreement with other reviewers: this is the best. Keneally has as his characters members of the Stonewall Brigade, from the completely fictional Usaph and his... Read more
Published on Feb. 20 2001
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