Melman, Peter Charles. Landsman. New York: Counterpoint, 2007.
Elias Abrams is a young Jewish gangster in 1861 New Orleans, the illegitimate son of a wealthy man who has ignored him most of his life. When things get too hot for Abrams in the city, he joins a Confederate regiment and sees action in Missouri, Arkansas, and the Indian Territory. Elias has done virtually nothing right with his life, but under the tutelage of a generous academic in the ranks, and with the love of a good woman back in New Orleans to guide him, he slowly begins to make good moral choices instead of gratifying his immediate and rapacious interests.
The extreme violence and degrading sex that characterize many contemporary Civil War novels are present here, but there's an almost refreshingly old-fashioned insistence on moral development; Landsman is a kind of latter-day, gritty Bildungsroman.
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