Review of The
Black Flower: A Novel of the Civil War
by Becky Utz from The Mississippi Writers and Musicians Project of
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
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
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.