Second Community Read Book.

The 2006 Fall Book Selection was

The Black Flower: A Novel of the Civil War
by Howard Bahr.

A New York Times Notable Book and Winner of the Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters

Photo by Nancy Jacobs

Howard Bahr
October 10, 2006

Author of The Black Flower, The Year of Jubilee,
 and The Judas Field

Review of The Black Flower: A Novel of the Civil War

by Becky Utz from The Mississippi Writers and Musicians Project of SHS

The Black Flower: A Novel of the Civil War by Howard Bahr is a beautifully-crafted tale of a soldier and his comrades dealing with the everyday aspects of battle and war. The setting is the bloody battle of Franklin in 1864 in Tennessee. Bushrod Carter, the main character is from Cumberland, Mississippi. This is a compelling story of courage and love.

The Black Flower, a New York Times Notable Book and winner of the Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, vividly describes the everyday life of the soldiers and their attempts to they keep their sanity in the midst of war. They have none of the passion for war that we would expect.

Bushrod often wonders which soldier will be the one to end his life. He wonders if he met that soldier first would it make any difference? Would the stranger still kill him? After a day of battle, however, the soldiers of both armies are forced to work together to bury their dead. Bushrod and his friends are surprised to find how normal and human the Union soldiers are.

"The black flower" is a symbol for death. Bushrod Carter is constantly confronted with his own mortality in dreams and fantasies, but he isn't afraid of it so much as he is intrigued by it. His dreams are most often of his dead friends; but they don't frighten him. They seem almost pleasant and welcoming. Bushrod Carter is a sweet boy with no desire to kill anyone. After a devastating battle, he meets a nurse named Anna, who is doing her best to remain strong for the wounded soldiers. In their time of need, Anna and Bushrod attain a bond of understanding. Neither wants to talk about the horrific aspects of the war, but both know personally the horror it offers.

I strongly recommend the book to everyone but especially to those with an interest in American history or the Civil War in particular. It is a heartwarming story of the resilience of the human spirit and of hope in even the most dire situations. Its simplicity adds to its charm and authenticity.


Brief Biography of Howard Bahr (Adapted from biography by Becky Utz)

Howard Bahr was born in Meridian, Mississippi, in 1946. As a child, he realized his natural proclivity for writing and his love of reading. Listening to the tales of his grandfather, he developed an interest in the Civil War and the old South.

After his high school graduation in 1964, Bahr entered the United States Navy, where he served four years. After being released from the Navy in 1968, Bahr worked on the Gulf Coast Railroad for five years. In 1973, Howard Bahr entered the University of Mississippi in Oxford as a twenty-seven year old freshman. There he received both a Bachelor's and a Master's degree in English and served as the curator of Rowan Oak, the home of Mississippi writer William Faulkner from 1976 to 1993. He was an also instructor of literature at Ole Miss as well as a re-enactor of the Civil War. In August of 1993 he accepted a job at Motlow State Community College in Tullahoma, Tennessee, where he currently teaches English as an assistant professor.

Bahr published his first novel, The Black Flower: A Novel of the Civil War, in 1998. The beautifully written novel about an ordinary soldier during the battle of Franklin, Tennessee, was nominated for The Stephen Crane Award from Book-of-the-Month Club, The Lincoln Prize from Gettysburg College, and The LSU Michael Shaara Award for Civil War First Fiction. It was also nominated for The Sue Kaufman First Fiction Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In addition, the novel was chosen as both a Book-of-the-Month Club and a Quality Paperback Book alternate.

Bahr's second book, The Year of the Jubilo, published in 2000, is also a novel about the Civil War. A short book, Home for Christmas, written for children, is a tale about two small children finding some happiness and a new home during the difficult Post Civil war days.

The Black Flower was a New York Times Notable Book and received the Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His second novel, The Year of Jubilo, was also a New York Times Notable Book.

A new book The Judas Field: A Novel of the Civil War will be released July 25, 2006.

Howard Bahr resides in Fayetteville, Tennessee.

***Read an interview with Howard Bahr by Becky Utz here.

Click here to learn about the first community read book The Return of Gabriel by John Armistead in Spring, 2006.

For additional information about Starkville Reads first author John Armistead, go to the Mississippi Writers and Musicians Project: John Armistead.

Web Page by Nancy Jacobs


Center for the Book Library of Congress

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