I recently completed Gods and Generals, Jeff Shaara's soon-to-be classic novel of the Civil War from the origin of the war up to battle at Gettysburg. This will likely be one of the most widely read books on the Civil War, and with good reason.
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Jeff Shaara follows in the footsteps of his father, Michael Shaara, who wrote "The Killer Angels," a novel about Gettysburg. In fact, the book proved so successful that the movie Gettysburg was based on the book. Unfortunately, Michael Shaara met an untimely death before he could follow up on his masterpiece. Jeff Shaara does his father proud with Gods and Generals.
In reviewing a few other opinions on this fine book, I couldn't help but wonder if the individuals writing those opinions were (1) more knowledgable about the Civil War than most of us to the point where they would not find any fictional work on the subject to be enjoyable, (2) found Shaara's tendency to write in partial sentences to be irritating, or (2) didn't read the book. The truth is, this is one of the finest novels you will ever read on the Civil War or any other historical subject. It may stray from the truth every now and then - that is why they call it fiction - but the leap is not as far as one might expect. Like James Michener, Shaara mixes fiction with actual history where needed to create an enjoyable novel. Like his father, Shaara's style of writing places you in the middle of the action.
This is no ordinary history book. The characters (Robert Lee, James Longstreet, Stonewall Jackson, Winfield Hancock, etc.) are so well developed that you will feel as if you have met them in person. You will travel with both the Army of the Potomac and General Lee's army and will be left with a sense that you have witnessed the battles in person. If you have a general interest in history, this is not a novel you will soon forget.
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