Elaine's Reviews > North and South

North and South by John Jakes
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Mar 25, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: history, civil-war

Someone at work was about to take the North & South Trilogy to the library, but offered them to me instead. I took these three massive tomes, which I remembered dimly from the 1980s (along with the TV miniseries adaptation) with muted thanks. No, I'll never turn down a book, but I expected some poorly written, overblown mess -- something like what you'd get if VC Andrews decided to write a historical trilogy. I put it off for nearly a year, and then finally cracked open North and South, fully prepared to be underwhelmed.

Wow. I'm now on the second volume, and would like to belatedly join the John Jakes Fan Club. Wow again.

I've lived in the South since 1986, despite growing up as a full-blooded Yankee, going back to pre-Revolution days. And of course I read Gone With the Wind, so of course I kind of thought I knew about the Civil War.

Wrong. It seems I'm only now starting to understand this not-so-distant history of my country. I strongly recommend this series of books to anyone who feels they need to do some catching up. John Jakes has painstakingly researched the subject and managed to personalize it through his characters. His writing is clear, very readable, detailed without being dense, and entertaining enough to keep you turning the pages. I also need to add that it's currently spring of 2012, and the political turmoil that fills the headlines today shows VERY LITTLE change from what Jakes depicts during the mid-1800s. It's sobering and more than a little scary.

Not having finished all three books yet, I can't do proper justice to the series with a review at this point, but if there is to be any criticism, it would be a tendency to draw the villains a bit too floridly. Bent the Butcher and Ashton the scheming nympho have raised my skeptical eyebrows numerous times so far ... but they are, nonetheless, characters you "love to hate." Knowing full well that it's "only a story," I still want to find out just how much more havoc they have up their sleeves.

I'm about 2/3 of the way through Love and War, the second book, and will probably not pause before picking up the final installment, Heaven and Hell. I may even get into The Kent Family Chronicles, John Jakes's earlier historical series. But regardless, this author has enriched my reading and learning life with North and South, and I'd strongly encourage any historically impaired readers to seek out these books post-haste.
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03/16/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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Betty Renard I always hesitate to review oft-reviewed books for fear of plagiarizing others opinions. In this case, may I just say "what Elaine said". You have echoed my every reaction to this from the Yankee upbringing to the revelation of the other perspective in GONE WITH THE WIND, and evento the point of being 2/3 into LOVE AND WAR and being a convert to the author's fan base! It's just eerie. :-)


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