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Coal Black Horse Paperback – 20 May 2008

4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 229 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill; Reprint edition (20 May 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565126017
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565126015
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.6 x 20.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 745,488 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By S. Caughie VINE VOICE on 30 Nov. 2008
Format: Paperback
My mum left this when she came to visit. I was going to leave it too (her literary tastes tend toward the Maeve Binchy, mine distinctly the opposite) until I saw that it was about the Civil War. Since my next book has a section about the Civil War, and I'm big on research-through-fiction, I thought I'd give it a go.

And was pleasantly surprised. Definitely not Maeve Binchy! The plot is simple, the language clean and beautiful, and best of all, the noble beast does not die in the end. In fact nothing terrible happens to the eponymous horse - my favorite thing about the book, given the penchant among writers for making the titular animal suffer in this kind of book...

Anyway, I'd have given it five stars except that the whole thing with Rachel didn't quite work for me. A bit too obvious, perhaps. And I'd have liked it better without her very predictable ultimate fate. Still, well worth the time to read it.
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By Mrs. AE Moore on 23 April 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I've become addicted to American Civil war writing since seeing the film "Lincoln" and reading the book on which it was based, "The Team of Rivals". Coal Black Horse was recommended at the end of one my kindle reads and I was not disappointed. I couldn't put it down. This is a lyrical and evocative book about a young boy who goes off to find his father who is fighting in the Civil War. Along the way he meets an interesting collection of people and the reader is introduced to the American landscape and the traumas of war at first hand.
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By D. Lewis on 22 Aug. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
About as good as a book can be. This author deserves the highest praise and recognition. I always thought Steinbeck's descriptions where unbeatable but not anymore. Truly magnificent. Inspiring and honest. A book that will leave a lasting impression, like 'Far Bright Star'. A great writer and one I'd love to emulate one day.
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By Elizabeth Collins on 7 April 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A story which will stay in my being for a long time. I intend to read more by this author.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 87 reviews
81 of 91 people found the following review helpful
Apparently you have to title these reviews. 22 Mar. 2007
By Molly Uline Olmstead - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I have to confess my personal connection, this is my father, the names are not a coincidence. Having said this, I am not required to like his work and I do not like all of it. We are both adults, we have our opinions and preferences. This book, however, is excellent. I would compare it to Cold Mountain or Disappearances in mood. Dark, funny, violent, fantastical but so painfully real. It is an exercise in grand storytelling. At the same time, this book is salient and timely. It takes place during the decline of the Civil War, when things were ugly, rivers running red, but the imagery, emotions, are here and now. The simultaneous horror and appeal of war, the brutal descriptions of violence and decay juxtaposed with those of beauty and elegance reverberate with the current state of our nation. I don't know if he intended this, I didn't ask him, but I feel like anything released at this time dealing with war cannot escape comparison. Upon finishing it (and it is one of those quick reads where you come to the end and are flustered that it passed so quickly) I, a staunch peace-monger, actually questioned how I feel about war. War is awful, many die, it scars the land, it is ugly business. But war can enrapture, and from war comes deep feeling and beautiful art. This book caused me wonder about why we wage war and how it changes us, all of us, how it becomes a part of us.
41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
A tale that transcends the Civil War setting 3 April 2007
By John C. Wiegard - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Coal Black Horse has a horse in it, but it really deals with the loss of innocence of a boy who is sent on a crazy mission to retrieve his father from the battlefield. This story is suspenseful, the characters are deep and memorable, and the atmosphere is timeless in the good way that Grapes of Wrath or The Old Man and the Sea are timeless. The human face of war is so insightfully drawn- the perfect details are used to convey such depth in just a short novel. At one point the boy thinks of War as something that the men of both armies have fought against, all together- but together they all lost. I had never heard of the author and it came as a wonderful surprise just how good this book is.

Molly (the author's daughter, see above review) is correct in saying that this novel may have roots in our current troubled experience in Iraq. But it references the experience of war in general not in specifics- as I say, timeless and therefore universal.

No, it's not about a horse. It's about you and me. Don't miss it.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
High Grade Fiction! 13 Mar. 2007
By Pete J. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Coal Black Horse is a beautifully written, enduring story; elements of a traditional American coming-of-age story, accessibly lyrical, and intensely violently. Set in the Civil War Era South, the abject inhumanity encountered by Robey brings him fact-to-face with his fears, hopes, and ideas or faith. These ideas and ideals are reevaluated constantly in the search for his father and commitment to stay alive. One can never imagine how one would react under unswerving duress. I suspect that Robey's courage and experiences would put Coal Black Horse in the cannon of American story-telling for years to come. I often reference books like Child of God, 100 Years of Solitude, The Diceman, and Naked Lunch as all time favorite novels, and now Coal Black Horse has been added to that list!
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Wow, what a great book 23 April 2007
By D. McCoy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Olmstead's latest, COAL BLACK HORSE is a great read that will stay with you long after you finish the last sentence. This is my first book by Mr. Olmstead and it won't be my last. Only question I had after reading this book, is why I had not heard of Mr. Olmstead before? Everybody needs to be reading this guy, especially COAL BLACK HORSE. Buy it, read it, then read it again, it's that good. Seriously.

Too, on another note, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Olmstead at a book festival and we spoke for a good while, he's a very neat and generous man. It was a pleasure to speak with him as he openly talked about his new book and the writing process. I urge anybody who's debating on buying this book to just buy it. You won't be disappointed. The prose and language alone are good enough to carry this book through till the end, but, luckily for us it doesn't have too, because the plot is strong also.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A fine read 30 Jun. 2008
By Gretchen Hirsch - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I have to admit that in the first few pages, I wondered if Olmstead's love for antique words and less-common constructions would get in the way of telling the story. In short order, however, I stopped worrying about it because I was caught up in the action. When I finally put the book down, I realized that the language was the story, the story was the language, and there was no other way to present the narrative. I've rarely felt that satisfying sense of wholeness in other writing--fiction or nonfiction.

The book is spare, but the language evocative and rich. The sense of place is pitch perfect, even if from time to time you're not sure what place you're in. But that's OK; Robey Childs isn't sure either.

The book is unstinting about the ugliness of war, but there are also passages that speak to nobility, higher calling, and civility. It's a descriptive tightrope walked well.

What Olmstead has done with an essentially simple story set in a complicated time is breathtaking. I recommend Coal Black Horse without reservation.
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