Books I have read …. and read again …. and soon once more …. [# one]

My all-time favorite and the most beautiful book I have ever read is Andersonville by MacKinlay Kantor. Many reviews refer to the book as a Civil War novel [Kantor got a Pulitzer for it] but it is not about the War as such. It deals with the people involved in the Southern Prison of War stockade in the small town of Andersonville South West Georgia.

All reviews are full of praise but none gives full justice for the craftsmanship in dealing with the ordinary people who got drawn into the sad event where thousands of Northern prisoners of War were dumped in a place hardly fit for one thousand and left to their own devices.

Kantor deals with the cruelty, the heartlessness, the stupidity and the incompetence of both sides; he doesn’t defend anyone; indeed he calls both sides guilty. But the War is not what makes the book great [he should have got Nobel for it]; the story is the people on both sides and the locals who had to deal with the horror in their midst. I won’t tell you too much because you must buy the book. So I shall tell you just a little.

Ira Claffey appears in the very first line and stays through to the end; there is his daughter Lucy and Cousin [Cos] who came to cure the bodies and found his own soul and love; and the widow Tebbs, Coral [one of her sons] and the parson. We find Nathan Dreyfoos [you must take care of him when you read your own copy of Andersonville]; and you meet the brutal hoodlum slum killer Norton who continued his “career” killing his own, and Captain Wirz, the Camp Commander, with his own pains and fears. You walk with Ira Claffey; he talks to you and unbeknown to him he compels [forces] you to say: “What would I have done in his shoes, or in the shoes of any of the characters that come alive in every page?” Kantor does single the top brass in the Southern Military out for their lack of interest [without grudge or hate, and does not put it in this way] but he questions the chain of command that had put some of them in the positions that they held.

But even that is secondary. You meet those who died but lived forever; and those who survived but never lived again. In every chapter you will find those who tried to heal body and soul and those who destroyed both; there is utter despair but hope is born for some. A few did not kill intentionally; others did and had no remorse. A few came out better people than before, which means there may be hope if such a horror comes to pass again. And there is a chapter near the end where two twisted souls who could have hated each other but found a need to help and love instead; the man Claffey stumbles onto the scene and both twisted souls found a common need from which Claffey encouraged [and connived] to produce a miracle that grips you by the throat.

Appomattox came and the stockade was opened. Some walked; others hobbled home somewhere in one of the Northern States; many stayed behind because they would never walk again; they didn’t know they were free because where they now stayed everyone is free [or is he?]. To be ‘’of human bondage’’ [to quote and acknowledge Somerset Maugham] is often a more severe prison for freedom than those that endured Andersonville had. That comes out so clear in my favorite book that I am trying to encourage you to buy and read.

I found my [used] copy of the original 1955 edition at a small rusty novelty store in the Main Street of Andersonville, just a few yards down from the statue of Henry Wirz at the small roundabout. I can’t remember what I paid for it [probably one or two bucks] but it is worth one hundred and I am given to understand it can still be found at specialty book suppliers.

Get it; it will change your life [it did mine] and next time I shall tell you about the town of Andersonville today and my next book that I have read six or eight times.

14 Responses to “Books I have read …. and read again …. and soon once more …. [# one]”

  1. Rodrigo Díaz Says:

    Excellent post, Ike. That’s not just an atta’ boy, you feel what you type, thereby making others feel the same.

    HEY! When you get rich and famous…remember to say “hello”, to all of us peons. Don’t become an Obama snob. 🙂

  2. Ike Jakson Says:

    My El Campeador, coming from you it is the one I wanted, and thy humble servant is honored by the lofty praise. You have thus seen the reason why I am less vocal elsewhere and I am more indebted to you than before because you have assisted to guide me this far. I have managed to solve most of the urgent FAQ’s but not the small matter of my Blogroll. But do not be concerned, I am reading your stuff every day and enjoy your visitors including some guy who calls himself Anon. It also seems to me one must be prepared to Blog fulltime and I am rearing to go. Any advice, guidance, admonishment for when I err will be of great assistance from My El Campeador.

    Oh, yes and the guy who makes his own special toast has replied to me that he does indeed read James Herriot but has not read Paul Gallico, which is a great Pity because said Gallico was and still is the greatest writer ever on the higher level of the animal World as against that of the human species. Thanks again.

  3. optosuddy Says:

    hi all
    i understand itis my inception pylon here
    but i wanna ask if any of you understand arbic to require me what these website for ??
    evry day they send to me e-mail.


    سكس جنس افلام سكس افلام جنس صور جنسية صور سكس صور جنس قصص جنس قصص سكس

  4. Ike Jakson Says:

    I don’t understand what you refer to my friend optosuddy. If you will clarify, please?

  5. Alice Says:

    Hi – I found your site by mistake. I was searching in Yahoo for beach vacations for my family trip when I found your site, I must say your site is really informative, I just love the theme, its amazing!. I don’t have the time at the moment to fully read your site but I have bookmarked it and also signed up for your RSS feeds. I will be back around in a day or two. Thanks again for a cool site.

  6. 7bibliofilles Says:

    Thank you for your comment on our Bibliofilles blog, this is a good recommendation for our group

    • Ike Jakson Says:


      Thanks for your reply. You will love it. Be ready for it to change your life. Do let me know.

  7. Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont Says:

    I think you handled it brilliantly! The only test of a good review is that it encourages one to read the book. I now intend to read this book. Thanks, Ike. 🙂

    • Ike Jakson Says:


      You are a star. I had all along meant to ask you whether my “review” will influence you to buy the book and read it. It is dead serious; that’s exactly what I had wanted to do.

      Thanks so much. Please now take your time and when you have done kindly leave the comments that you want in this Post.

      May I also suggest that you take time from page one; it is a great treasure box full of precious stones and beauty; do take your time.

  8. anatheimp Says:

    Ike, here, below, is the link to the review I’ve just added to Ana the Imp. Thanks again for drawing my attention to this tremendous book. But for you I may never have come across it.

    • Ike Jakson Says:

      Thank you Anastasia

      I have just seen your comment after I had read your Post and left a comment in there. Your thoroughness impresses me too apart from the excellent book review; and your chivalry is unequalled.

  9. Bob Mack Says:

    Ike, as an aside, some of the survivors of Andersonville still had a quotient of bad luck left to them: It’s been quite a while since I read Andersonville. I’ll have to re-read it. As I mentioned on another post, John Ransom’s Diary provides an excellent perspective from a man who was there.

  10. 2010 in review « Ike Jakson’s Blog Says:

    […] Books I have read …. and read again …. and soon once more …. [# one] March 2009 13 comments 4 […]

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