An absorbing saga of the American Civil War--and a stunning departure for its Czechoslovakian-born (now Canadian) author (Dvorak in Love, 1987, etc.). The story begins in Savannah, Georgia, with the marriage of a young officer in General Sherman's Union Army to Lida Toupelik, a Moravian immigrant whose sensuous beauty had bewitched several men on two continents before and after her family's escape from political repression in their homeland. Meanwhile, in the comparative safety of their new country, Lida's brother, Cyril, becomes dedicated to a new battle for freedom. In a series of colorful parallel narratives, kvoreck deftly juggles the stories of Cyril's frustrated romance with a beautiful mulatto slave girl; Lida's continuing enslavement of and by men; Sherman's march south, burning everything behind him; the checkered career of Union general Ambrose Burnside, reviled as the architect of his troops' disastrous defeat at Fredericksburg (though, in kvoreck's portrayal, Burnside is simply an unlucky man of both principle and cunning); the life of intelligent, ironical ``Laura A. Lee,'' a pseudonymous popular author of light romantic novels who will love Ambrose Burnside all her life but, for her own intricate reasons, refuse to marry him; and--most strikingly--the adventures, memories, fantasies (printed in italicized sections) of the Czech immigrants who were soldiers in Sherman's 26th Wisconsin Battalion. This is a dauntingly ambitious tale, crammed with convincing period detail skillfully integrated into a generous narrative that, somehow, never flags despite its fragmentation and its imposing overload of information. kvoreck does not eschew melodrama (the reader will be reminded, more than once, of Gone With the Wind), and his trademark ribald humor is much--perhaps overmuch--in evidence. But his big book's boldly drawn characters and passionate delineation of their conflicting quests give it a genuinely epic flow and feel. Easily the best novel kvoreck has yet written, and a likely commercial as well as critical success.