I’m not sure which version of “Cold Mountain” I liked less: the novel or the movie. Both seemed intent on manipulating me as a reader/viewer into feeling despair or something of the sort, while ultimately I felt bored and irritated that certain details (like how men and women might have actually responded to each other) were couched in too modern a way (you’ll note that this doesn’t bother me in other movies set in historical times but when a movie is this bad, it does).

I know people really liked this book and movie but I just don’t get it. Granted, Renée Zellweger gave a great performance (I tend to like her in everything, which kind of surprises me) but the rest of it was so weird. It felt more spaghetti western than anything, which would have been great had it been a spaghetti western but it wasn’t. I did love the cinematography (not that I’m educated on this stuff enough to talk about it) because I got a sense that the light was special. I couldn’t quite take myself away from it actually; the feeling it gave me was that this was another time. I loved that. The setting, also, was gorgeous.

The book, when I read it a few years ago, sort of bored me. I kept waiting to find out what was so great about it. I never did. What I did like about was how the main character (her name totally escapes me—but Nicole Kidman) was transformed by the Renée Zellweger character—unfortunately, that part is sort of glossed over in the movie. Suddenly Nicole Kidman can shoot like a marksman! Huzzah!

Now all of this got me thinking of a Civil War book I truly loved, which is Tony Horwitz’s Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War. Now here is a tale where all of the details are right—because it is, essentially, about all of the details. Tony Horwitz is a journalist and this book is about his time spent with the folks who (whenever they have a spare minute) recreate the civil war—right down to their underwear (or lack thereof). It is an absolutely fascinating must read. If you haven’t read it, do and then come back and tell me how much more you enjoyed it than Cold Mountain (just kidding, but seriously do read it!).

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