the beguiled

2 of 9
By Thomas Cullinan
384 pages; Penguin Books

Thomas Cullinan's 1966 novel about the Civil War first hit theaters in 1971, with Clint Eastwood starring as an injured Union soldier taken in by the few girls remaining at a failing Virginia finishing school. Director Sofia Coppola's take, opening June 30, focuses on the female characters—Nicole Kidman plays the headmistress, and Kirsten Dunst a teacher—who tend to the wounded soldier (Colin Farrell). Although Coppola's version highlights the erotic drama that the soldier's sudden presence generates, Cullinan's novel is an unjustly forgotten historical tale that highlights how children are broken and reshaped by war: Each woman shares the narration, and each shares a heartbreaking tale of loss, separation and resilience.