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3.94  ·  Rating Details  ·  313 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
Thomas Keneally's epic of the Civil War takes us into the lives of four remarkable characters in the embattled Virginia summer of 1862: a southern hospital matron who is also a Union spy, a British war journalist with access to both sides, and two foot soldiers under Stonewall Jackson.
Published February 17th 1994 by Sceptre (first published 1979)
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Non-Winners of the Man Booker
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This must be one of the best things Keneally has ever done and how it avoided winning the Booker is simply mesmerizing. This Australian author really has no right to go about writing on such a closely-studied and well-documented theme as the American Civil War and the various side issues that went along with it. I suppose that's why I stared at the spine of this book as it sat on a shelf in my library for year after year, without ever opening it. Yet it has proven one of the more delectable piec ...more
May 12, 2014 Bobby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A novel with several independent stories occurring simultaneously doesn't always work but that's not the case here. I thought each story could have been a book in and of themselves but Thomas Keneally again worked his magic (as he did in Schindler's List). From a foot weary Confederate soldier fighting beside a man that had a brief affair with his wife, to Union spies, to a philandering Colonel looking for salvation the tales carried me through at a frantic pace. The horrors of the Civil War and ...more
Nov 08, 2010 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The War between the states in America is probably one of the most written about events in history, but this adds a human dimension that is sometimes lost in other novels that give an overall view of the whole war. Here we have a very close look at some of the participants, including Stonewall Jackson, and get an insight into what it felt like at a personal level: the daily difficulties, mental anquish, confusion and uncertainty.
Keneally takes a short period in summer 1862 leading up to and inclu
Ryan Williams
Dec 20, 2015 Ryan Williams rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Keneally tends to be best known for Schindler's Ark, his 1982 Booker-Prize winner and the basis for the film Schindler's List. Although The Playmaker is well known to generations of A-Level students, that still seems a pity.

Confederates remains my favourite among his novels for more reasons than I can list, but I am always impressed with how seamlessly he enters the heads of the footsloggers, exits into the wider picture, yet without diminishing either. That is crucial in a war novel, more so w
Apr 27, 2016 Eric rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mr Keneally did his homework. His research was right on and yet he was able to weave several "fictional" plots into this segment of the War Between The States. This is not a read for the faint of heart, as Thomas Keneally tells it as it was. Nothing glorious about the slaughter that occurred on both sides of the lines. This tale related by the Confederate view. The descriptions of the condition of the troops, their heart breaks and trials are right up there with the account of "Andersonville" by ...more
Mij Woodward
Jun 30, 2013 Mij Woodward rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hist-fiction
Loved this book.

Took me FOREVER to get through. That's because it is DENSE. Dense with details and details that paint a picture, and bring the reader into the scene, and into the shoes of the character. I was hooked.

I was motivated to read this book, after finishing the author's more recent work, Daughters of Mars. I knew I had discovered a historical-fiction genius. And he did it again for me. Both books have a couple of things in common. Both are war books--Daughters about WWI, and Confederate
Kevin Tole
Aug 02, 2013 Kevin Tole rated it liked it
Shelves: americana
I thought I'd better read some of this guy - as it was one of the many gaps in my author knowledge - so I got this and something about the WW1 Armistice. Yep it sure is a page turner but it is purely narrative driven. Although there is much written about how it realises how ugly and bloody were the effects of the American Civil War, I found that this became just another element of the book and if he was trying to make a point about the tearing of the south apart like the tearing of bodies apart, ...more
Delway Burton
Nov 17, 2010 Delway Burton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thomas Keneally is one of Australia's most celebrated authors. He is know in the US as the author of Schindler's List. The book is a reprint of the original published in the 1980's when Keneally was doing a sabbatical in the US. The fact that he would attempt such a book, a historical novel of the American Civil War from the southern point of view, shows both great skill and a great intellect. The language can be difficult (accurate?) and a few of the situations off beat, but in toto this is a v ...more
Mark Speed
Jul 11, 2014 Mark Speed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
I remember exactly where I was and with whom when I read this. I even remember my grandfather nodding at the novel as I read it and saying, "That was a bloody one" - meaning the American Civil War. And it was.

It's difficult to put something like a war into fiction. Thomas Keneally does it through following the stories of three people. At the age of sixteen I knew nothing of the American Civil War (having opted to learn German instead of History). What astonished me was not just the brutality, bu
The US Civil War has always been a subject I've wanted to understand better and this was a great novel to do that. The book covers a relatively short period in the war and follows several characters, from lowly foot soldiers through to the Confederate General Stonewall Jackson. Kenneally manages to capture the horror of the battles along with the minutiae of human experience as well as explaining the rationale for the South wanting to secede from the Union. The characterisation is really good an ...more
Keith Slade
Jul 30, 2012 Keith Slade rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good historical novel about Confederate soldier. Showed endurance, courage, etc. of poor ragtag army.
Rob Weedon
Aug 18, 2015 Rob Weedon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book by Thomas Kenneally I have read. What a cracker!
He traces a few confederate soldiers through various campaigns culminating in the battle of Antietam. It is also the story of women left at home and Union spies and Stonewall Jackson. Quite a mix. For me the best part was that there was a real sense of the ordinary soldiers really having no sense of where they were, where they were heading and what awaited them, that and the quite startling descriptions of death in combat in
'History is a which you and I are the fish. Have you ever caught a river perch and when he lay panting wondered if he'd had a happy morning before you hauled hime ashore? Did you wonder what his passions were?...Neither does God or history enquire such things of us. Yet without us, God and history would not be a river.'

This book gave me what I wanted it to: a bit more of an understanding of the kind of men who made up the Confederate Army, and what their reasons for fighting were. The
There were many points in this book, by the otherwise reliable Thomas Keneally, where I almost threw in the towel. The story concentrates on the days surrounding the battle of Antietam in 1862, and the feelings of the people on the front and at home during the days before and after the bloodiest day on American soil prior to 9/11.

The problem with Confederates is that the most interesting characters, Mrs. Whipple, Mr. Searcy, Ephie and Aunt Sarrie, are only visited rarely and for too brief a per
Jakey Gee
Jun 27, 2015 Jakey Gee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
A belter. A great set of characters and dramas (Bumpass, Searcy... Stonewall Jackson) and never weighed down by the wonky military strategy stuff (which frankly I've never got). Appropriately gory, profane and saucy. Sympathetic without sympathizing. I love that line from Cate about the blood of the young being the mortar that builds history. Marvelous.
Anthony Irven
I enjoyed this book which made real the terrible reality of the American Civil War. The number of people killed is staggering.
I have one quibble though! I was waiting for the eventual redemption of Dora Whipple, a woman of immense character and compassion! But she is hung for her goodness and Keneally allows no redemption for her goodness! I found this disappointing and would have rather her survive than that righteous bumpkin, Usaph Bumpass!
Jason Penn
Jul 14, 2013 Jason Penn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stunning. Captures the fighting at Sharpsburg with imagery that no movie camera or CGI could ever hope to. This is the definitive civil war novel. History only makes sense and comes alive with fiction. Reading this book was a turning point in my life and I only began to understand the real nature of war from this novel. Whenever I am in trouble I put myself in that terrible field of corn with General Hood's ragged and starving troops. After the fighting had subsided, General Lee asked Hood where ...more
My husband and I read this one together, as we are both American Civil War buffs, as well as fans of Australian author Thomas Keneally. It was very absorbing, believable, interesting and worthwhile. Mr Keneally has really done his research on this war and its cultural setting, and is knowledgeable about the various generals and other personages, and it all rang true. The various fictional characters were all well drawn, and their stories gripping. Our hearts ached for those on both sides of the ...more
T P Kennedy
It's a good book but not a great one. It rattles along at a good pace. There's evidence of considerable research and he's comfortable with the era. I'm not convinced by the characterisation - some of the historical characters were odder and more interesting than they're portrayed here. Some of the characters border on caricature and the women are very unconvincing. It's a good diversion but much more than that.
Mike Perry
Apr 27, 2016 Mike Perry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As good as fiction can be about this awful war, particularly the common men fighting a useless war they never understood.

On a par with All Quiet on the Western Front. Beautiful and sad and awful. No sense of glory., no sense of the worth of the pitiful cause. But a heartfelt study of the best and worst of each of us caught
in an insane river of destructio
Mar 07, 2011 Geoff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: booker-novels
A super novel about the American Civil War but I read it soon after finishing The Red Badge of Courage and although Crane's book is slimmer and slightly dated it's a better read - more harrowing and descriptive. I do like Keneally's book though; a worthy candidate for the Booker prize.
Donal O
May 27, 2016 Donal O rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyed this. Lots of death and carnage but doesn't glorify it and does try to tell the story from a Confederate point of view without condemning nor sympathising with the politics behind their campaign.
Sep 21, 2013 Nelta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another book I read YEARS ago....I enjoyed reading books concerning the Civil War and I read this at least 25 years ago....I'm thinking 30 years is more like evokes as array of emotions....
Frederick Bingham
I read about 30 pages, but could not follow the story very well. It is something about a Virginia farmer who joins the confederate army during the civil war.
Sep 27, 2007 Janet marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Thanks for reminding me about this book, Gary! It's been sitting on my bookshelf for years...
Aug 13, 2013 Grant rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very good read. One of Kennealleys best IMO
Feb 22, 2016 Kj rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bloody good book.
Matthew Stuart
Matthew Stuart marked it as to-read
Aug 29, 2016
Cara Keith
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Aug 28, 2016
Robert Nelson
Robert Nelson marked it as to-read
Aug 25, 2016
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Thomas Michael Keneally, AO (born 7 October 1935) is an Australian novelist, playwright and author of non-fiction. He is best known for writing Schindler's Ark, the Booker Prize-winning novel of 1982, which was inspired by the efforts of Poldek Pfefferberg, a Holocaust survivor. The book would later be adapted to Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List (1993), which won the Academy Award for Best Pict ...more
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