Coal Black Horse by Robert Olmstead

A story about one young man during the US Civil War, this is a book that needs to be read twice in a row.

In the first reading, the story is gripping as Robey leaves his quiet, loving home to bring his father back from the war and then encounters all the dangers, horrors and evils that bred in war. Your chest gets so tight that it aches and you can hardly breathe as he begins to change in order to survive the dangers, both physical and mental, that he encounters along the way. He learns not to trust blindly, to steal and even to kill. He leaves home a young teen, not only in years but in understanding and returns home still a teen in years but a grown man in understanding. And even while you are in the grips of the story you are aware that you are reading a book of exceptional beauty.

And that is why you must reread. To savor, to inhale the exquisite prose of this book. I am sure that someone else could have taken this tale and written a 500 page novel that would not leave you as awe-struck as this thin book does. Each word is so carefully chosen, so perfectly placed that a masterpiece emerges and the book enters not only your mind, but also your heart.

The book is very graphic in describing the horrors of the aftermath of Gettysburg (in truth, any battle in any war). And well it should be, for the truth of the scene is horror and to tell it less is to take away the need for Robey’s changes. It also makes war ‘civilized’ which it is not and it takes away our need to understand that.

Published in: on October 16, 2011 at 6:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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