Jakes (On Secret Service, 2000, etc.) takes another big bite out of southern history with a tragic multigenerational saga set in Charleston, South Carolina. Book One limns the Revolutionary War years (more battles during that conflict were fought in South Carolina than in any other colony); Book Two portrays the expansion of slavery and the cotton trade from 1822 to 1842; Book Three chronicles the final period of the War for Secession and the brighter morning arising with Reconstruction not that far-distant. (Two sections entitled “The Years Between” fill in the gaps for 1793–1822 and 1842–63.) General Sherman, Jakes tells us, saw that the whole Union Army “burned with an insatiable desire to wreak vengeance on South Carolina. I almost tremble at her fate, but feel that she deserves all that seems in store for her.” The author focuses on all levels of southern society—the belles at their balls, the cowards and patriots—and shapes vengeance and melodrama with great force.
The author’s pleasure in this many-voiced hymn to his home state of 25 years comes through strongly: popular historical fiction at its most readable.