Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Art of War

I have a confession to make. I skimmed every page of Rifles for Watie by Harold Keith, winner of the 1958 Newbery Medal. Maybe it's my own issues with reading books about wars, violence, and the loss of innocence, but I just couldn't bring myself to read every page of this 300+ page tome about the Civil War in Kansas. Like All Quiet on the Western Front, Keith shows the wide-eyed excitement of fighting for one's country to the disillusionment of discovering the curruption of the war machine. Keith vividly depicts the fictionalized experiences of a common Union soldier named Jeff Bussey. Bussey is likable and interesting, especially when he defies orders from his superiors to follow his conscience. However, too many details about the war and irrelevant characters make the novel lag on ... and on and on, much like the war itself. While I did enjoy how Keith shared the perspective of each side, including the little known Native American involvement in the war, this book may be more suited for male adolescents (not to be sexist), who savor little nuances and details of history. As for me, I'm just glad I finished it.

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