Molly's Reviews > Blood Feud: The Hatfields and the McCoys: The Epic Story of Murder and Vengeance

Blood Feud by Lisa Alther
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's review
Oct 08, 14

bookshelves: 2012-may-dec
Read in August, 2012

I would give this zero stars if I could. I admit that it strikes me as a difficult task to turn the meagerly documented story of the Hatfields and McCoys into a cohesive narrative. And given the dozens of conflicting oral histories, tangled genealogies, and convoluted chronologies, and having only hearsay and speculation to go on, it would be difficult to put together a cogent thesis from any such account. But it is also difficult to imagine someone failing so completely and miserably as the author of this inane book fails as a historian and writer. Further adding to the disgrace of her garbled thesis and trite prose, Alther throws in some fatuous psychological conjecture. She opines that the feud can give us fresh insights into the political situations in Bosnia, Rwanda, and Darfur; that the men in both families were merely acting out their Oedipal urges; and that she herself inherited the psychic trauma of the violence of Appalachian culture in the 1800s. The last claim is my favorite as it stretches the reader's credulity and patience to its furthest limits. I was going to say that the book is at least mercifully short, but then I realized that even 230 pages is too long for such a book. I'm judging myself for reading the entire thing.
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