More panoramic in scope and more realistic in its details than Crane's Red Badge of Courage, this is one of the first and best novels ever written about the American Civil War
Drawing on his own combat experience with the Union forces, John W. De Forest crafted a war novel like nothing before it in the annals of American literature. His first-hand knowledge of "the wilderness of death" made its way on to the pages of his riveting novel with devastating effect. Whether depicting the tedium before combat, the unspoken horror of battle, or the grisly butchery of the field hospital, De Forest broke new ground, anticipating the realistic war writings of Ernest Hemingway, Norman Mailer, and Tim O'Brien.
A commercial failure in its own day, De Forest's story was praised by Henry James and William Dean Howells, who, comparing it favorably to War and Peace, acclaimed the book "one of the best American novels ever written."
For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
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Miss Ravenel's Conversion is important in American literary history as the first novel to depict the Civil War with realism. Its battlefield scenes owe much to John De Forest's own experience as a captain in that conflict. But in 1867 genteel readers were affronted by De Forest's frank view of war and sex. Though praised by William Dean Howells, the novel was forgotten after De Forest's death in 1906. It was later rediscovered by Van Wyck Brooks and other critics.
Modern readers will enjoy this story of a Southern woman who comes to New Boston with her father in 1861, opposes his views on secession and abolition, and is changed forever by the great war. Some critics have called the charming Lillie Ravenel the first realistic heroine in American fiction.About the Author:
Gary Scharnhorst is editor of American Literary Realism and editor in alternating years of the research annual American Literary Scholarship.
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