War? Pretty much hell

Co. Aytch by Sam R. Watkins

3 words: unflinching, immediate, direct

I seriously love a conversational first-person narrator. So when we were visiting Kennesaw Mountain battlefield and I saw Sam Watkins quoted all over the museum and then saw his book blurbed as one of the most compelling memoirs of the Civil War… I was there.

I nearly bought a copy right there in the gift shop.

But then I thought: audiobook.

And, in retrospect, that might’ve been a mistake. The thing is this: Watkins is a Southerner. And the narrator of the audiobook? Pure Yankee. It created kind of a strange disconnect.

But that’s my only quibble with this book.

Watkins wrote one doozy of a narrative.

Although he wrote this memoir a couple of decades after the war, his story feels fresh and honest and unflinching.

And there are moments that’ll rip your heart out. Moments like when he describes the horrible death of a fellow soldier in vivid detail, then states simply, “I loved him. He was my friend.”

And then he picks up the narrative as the army marches on.

There were moments I halted what I was doing, to just pause and feel all the feels.

Watkins doesn’t sugarcoat a thing. He lets us know how horrible that war was. He unsparingly describes the fury and the horror at the Dead Angle at Kennesaw.

(When we saw that place during our visit, I stood and gaped. It was hard to believe that soldiers mounted an attack on that ground. Sobering stuff, my friends.)

And call me weird, but I find it strangely comforting when someone speaks the full truth about something horrible. So I found Watkins’s memoir both moving and  refreshing.

 Anyone else like the full honest truth in their books?


4 thoughts on “War? Pretty much hell

  1. I think that one role os books is to reflect reality. Sometimes reality can be brutal, especially in terms of war. Thus I believe that some books need to be written in such a way.

  2. What a review. I've never been particularly interested in the Civil War but you've made me want to read this book.

    And…" I find it strangely comforting when someone speaks the full truth about something horrible…" Amen, you. I sometimes think this is why it's jarring to me to be an American. I feel culturally we are not good at this–Brits get a bit closer, with their dark humor, and the Irish and Russians and Eastern Europeans perhaps a bit closer still (sadly those are the only other cultures I'm even a little bit aware of). I always prefer to hear about someone facing the darkness and saying, shit, that is DARK, rather than, hi ho, I'm sure there's a light there somewhere!
    Sorry to go way off-topic but I just loved your line.

  3. Citizen — I'm right there with you — in the serious acknowledgment that sometimes things are just BAD and people shouldn't be lying about it or sugarcoating it. And man, sometimes the horrible truth is just the thing.

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