An excellent 2d installment of the North and South trilogy, March 9, 2004
Reviewer: Roger J. Buffington (Huntington Beach, CA United States)
Jakes' "North and South" trilogy is a well-written, entertaining, and historically insightful series dealing with America from about 1845 (Mexican War period) through the post-Civil War period. This novel deals with the Civil War from its outset to the conclusion.
The story traces the activities of the Hazard and Main families, great families deriving from North and South respectively and bound by friendship and marriage, through the nation's bloodiest conflict. This is an engaging and entertaining story. Jakes does a good job of showing the reader that the Civil War was probably inevitable given the intractable differences between the North and South, and the stubborness on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line. The story also shows how it came to be that despite the North's numbers and industrial might, it took years for the North to successfully overwhelm the South.
This is not a perfect novel. Despite the overall taut storyline and good prose, Jakes has a tendency to produce exaggerated characters who are almost caricatures of the way people really behave. While there are doubtless real-life examples of Elkanah Bents, Victoria Hazards, and Justin LaMottes (three principal characters in this series) such exaggerated personages abound in Jakes' world. Well, it is after all a novel.
Overall, this is the second best novel in the series; perhaps not as good as "North and South" but better than "Heaven and Hell" which is the third installment. This novel is well worth reading, and provides an entertaining and insightful look at the Civil War and how it affected ordinary people and the nation as a whole.