by Jeff Shaara ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 1, 1998
Concluding volume of the Shaara family's lightly fictionalized chronicle of the Civil War, one of the more unusual (and successful) recent projects in publishing. Michael Shaara (who died in 1998) wrote the Pulitzer-winning The Killer Angels (1974), a novel that dealt with the pivotal three-day battle of Gettysburg, and matched a shrewd reading of character to careful research. In 1996, Shaara's son issued Gods and Generals, a fictional treatment of the war's early years. This new story traces the war's sad progress from a few days after Lee's retreat from Gettysburg until his surrender, in 1865, at Appomattox Courthouse. While The Killer Angels used the war to probe basic issues of human nature, the more recent works in the series are more focused on catching the war's day-to-day reality, which they do quite successfully. Both focus largely on the experiences and reflections of a group of officers, Union and Confederate, at the center of the fighting. This time out, Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee are principal characters, and Shaara is careful to hew closely to the historical record in describing their moods, thoughts, and actions. Through their eyes, and the eyes of a half a dozen other figures, we follow the bloody campaigns in the Wilderness, the siege of Petersburg, the collapse of Southern resistance, and the surrender of Lee's army, in a scene rendered with great precision and vigor. Shaara's battle episodes nicely balance an admirable grasp of strategy with an understanding of the war's horror and cost. While it's hard to see how the younger Shaara's books offer anything new as either fiction or history on the subject, their swift pace and great accuracy do make for a vivid--and sometimes moving -- review of a defining moment in American history.
Pub Date: June 1, 1998
Page Count: 576
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1998
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