UNTIL THE END by Harold Coyle

UNTIL THE END

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 The concluding work in Coyle's splendid two-volume series on America's Civil War. Look Away (1995) followed the star-crossed Bannon brothers, James (a gentleman ranker in Virginia's Stonewall Brigade) and Kevin (a captain with the 4th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry), from their troubled but privileged youth in the Garden State through a brief face-to-face encounter at Gettysburg. The narrative at hand (which provides background enough to stand alone) picks up the parallel stories of James and Kevin after Gettysburg and tracks them through the endgame of a horrific conflict that proves more an endurance contest than a noble cause. Although James and Kevin never meet again on a battlefield, they are unwitting antagonists in many of the Eastern Theater's bloodiest campaigns. Among other near-miss collisions, James marches with the ragtag forces assembled by Jubal Early to menace Washington in mid-1864, while Kevin, still weak from wounds, commands a motley company of convalescents and Army clerks hastily armed to defend the seat of federal government. In their few respites from close-quarters combat, the brothers take comfort in two fine women, Kevin with Harriet Shields (a headstrong lass who, against her family's wishes, has gone south to nurse Union casualties) and James with Mary Beth McPherson (sister of a slain comrade). The fortunes of war throw Harriet and Mary Beth together when the latter's homestead is requisitioned as a front-line aid station in the wake of a Yankee rout of rebel troops near Winchester, Va. They soon part, and hostilities grind on until the North captures the Confederate capital of Richmond, where Mary Beth has gone to work in a munitions factory. Shortly thereafter, James (hopeful that the nation's suffering can now lead to national reconciliation) lays down his arms at Appomattox and heads North with Mary Beth, whom he's married, for a bittersweet reunion with Kevin and Harriet. A haunting, human-scale account of a cruel war.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-684-81140-5
Page count: 464pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1996




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