And perhaps never before have these conflicts been so clearly, so dramatically, and so excitingly presented. The word "narrative" is the key, not only to this extraordinary book's incandescence, but also to its truth. The story is told entirely from the point of view of the people involved in it. The listener not only learns what was happening in the North and South, on the political, military, diplomatic, and home fronts, he lives through the events as if he were there. This is the way it was, in its entirety, as far as Shelby Foote could discover it during years of exhaustive research.
©1986 Shelby Foote (P)2011 Blackstone Audio
I have just completed the marathon quest of listening to all three volumes of Shelby Foote's masterpiece narrative of the American Civil War (Approx 139 Hours). Coming to this trilogy, I thought I possessed a basic knowledge of the events of those four years which tore an infant nation apart and set brother against brother; quite literally in many cases. The Civil War trilogy has served to royally demonstrate to me just how much I did not know about this fascinating and bloody four years of American history. If you are an amateur historian wishing to really understand the polotics, characters, battles and progression of the war, this is the book for you. It isn't however, a book which could reasonably used as an introduction to the subject. There are many more concise accounts which can be read to see if you get the taste for more, at which time Shelby Foote's epic will be waiting.
This will also probably be an ideal information source for serious gamers of Civil War battles as every skirmish and major conflict is included in detail.
These comments relate to all 3 volumes of this work.
It appears almost like a tragic epic novel capturing the unimagined scope of the conflict, the carnage and destruction, the fine detail of the principal characters, and a wealth of comtemporary comment whether it be from reporters, soldiers, wives, family members or politicians to give some perpective to the undoubted horror. It is a wonderful history and geography lesson and it is beautifully written. It covers the defining event in the development of the United States and the importance of that is done full justice here. It is no turgid recitation of facts but a wonderfully constructed, evenly balanced and finely tuned account of the tragedy upon tragedy which led the the strengthening of the Union and which put in place the foundations of the modern day power house democracy.
Grover Gardner does full justice to the text in his low key, faultless rendition.
Quite simply an evocative journey through a disturbing conflict. Foote combines a large narrative scope with individual accounts, letters, memoirs and newspaper accounts to give the definitive Civil War book. Outstanding.
This is a comprehensive account of the war based on primary sources, with lots of detail. The personalities shine through in the coverage, which is primarily concerned with military affairs and battles (although the socio-political backdrop is addressed more than some critics have said). I have given 5 stars overall for these three volumes that make up the whole. But only four for performance, as the narrator is often dreary and jaded and has a clipped accent like the character Hannibal Lector in the Silence of the Lambs. I must admit that I would be jaded after reading this amount of text aloud, so maybe the producers should have broken it up with alternating readers, one with a north-east Yankee accent and one with a southern accent. Or someone who sounds like Shelby Foote did, the author now deceased, who had a mild educated southern lilt (interviews with him are on You Tube). But overall, this book is magnificent and well balanced and accessible. And the audio version is fair, and well worth the effort. I came to some new conclusions about Lincoln, the South, and the United States. A note on the medium: It is hard to take it all in unless you concentrate, but often you don't do that when listening to a book. So you have to re-play parts over and over again if something takes your attention away (like a 13 year old daughter asking for a lift or a wife coming home while you are preparing supper - both of whom complained, fairly, about the narrator's drone). Or you can only listen while painting a room or at the gym or in the car on your own. Or you can buy the books, which, if they include maps, would also prevent you having to look out relevant maps on the internet - but must weigh a ton!
A great, comprehensive history. Foote is excellent at detailing the battles and characters that shaped the US Civil War, and the research behind this is mind boggling. At well over 100 hrs this is not a casual read, but its at all times interesting and often compelling - well worth it. If you want a single volume on this conflict, check out Battle Cry of Freedom, but if you want to really get the detail, particularly for the key battles, then I would highly recommend this. Narration was good too, in my opinion.
For those with an interest in history and the period, I found this together with the two companion volumes terrific.
I think it is best to take this book with it's companion volumes together as a whole work. And in my opinion as a narrative history it stands apart.
Excellent throughout, captures both the all areas of the book very well.
Both, Shelby Foote's written work is brought to life by Grover Gardner's rendition.
My interest in this was kindled by watching the marvelous Ken Burns TV programmes of Footes' Civil War trilogy. Having read the books, which is daunting enough, I can confirm that listening to them is not for the fainhearted - you need to have a good grasp of the names and the topography to follow the parallel tactical, strategic and social narratives and know your Fed from your Reb. But if you are a serious student of military history these books are a true delight. I use the examples provided of both excellent and truly appaling generalship and leadership today as a lecturer in modern military history. I can not help but be struck by the similarities between Generals George B McClellan and Mark Clark !
The preview audio sample of this book is a very poor choice and made me think long and hard about buying this book. The sample appears to have been picked at random rather than with a view of giving an example of the content. That aside this book is a tour de force and one of the most interesting books I have read or listened to. I felt as if I knew and understood the individual characters involved and I learnt a great deal about the war itself. I have already purchased the second volume on the strength of this work. If I had a criticism it would be that I would have liked more informaton on the lead up to the war itself (the book starts with the resignation of Jefferson Davies). Having said that this volume alone stands at around 37 hours so perhaps it is already long enough! That small point does not detract from, in my humble opinion, 5 stars. A triumph!
A comprehensive account of the early stages of the war from the perspective of key players. Well read and written. However the detail is much more relevant to the written word that audio. If you listen in a concentrated and focused way this is for you - otherwise buy the book.
The American Civil War is one of my favourite chapters in world history. I devour books, documentaries and films on the subject. Accordingly, was really excited when I saw this series was available to download.
Unfortunately, totally let down by the narrator who reads the book so flatly that he makes the whole thing sound very boring indeed. It's even worse during the battle scenes .... the book sets the scene by explaining the terrain and the positioning of the rival forces. However, the way the narrator reads it, you really have no idea who is where, or why?
A book for reading, not listening to
This is the most sweeping history of the American civil war. It is almost impossible to describe the depth, feeling, and excitment of his triology(Audible, get the other 2 volumes quickly).
I read the books in 1990 and 1991. Yes, it took that long to enjoy the writing. Grover Gardner does an outstanding job as narrator.
Just listen to the sample. I think that will hook you. This is a long audio book, and everyone interested in our Civil War must listen. The book read like a novel, and on audio it is superb.
Shelby Foote is a brilliant storyteller, and his history of the Civil War is a masterpiece. Other histories give you the view from a thousand feet; Foote shows you what it must have looked like to the birds in the trees. It's often said that he's biased toward the South, but I think that's an exaggeration. He may not be overly fond of Grant, but he lavishes praise on Abraham Lincoln. His "bias," such as it is, comes partly from the narrative device of trying to give equal time to Jefferson Davis, as if he were in the same league as Lincoln. (Sorry, Shelby, but Jeff was a pill and even you can't make him sympathetic.)
I like Grover Gardner's narration a lot. There is some variation in audio quality, as others have noted, but for the most part Gardner is clear and forceful, and the story unfolds almost effortlessly. I can listen to it for hours at a time without fatigue.
The only drawback to listening to this, rather than reading it, is the absence of maps. Foote's book is peppered with maps, large and small, strategically placed throughout the text, and they support the narrative descriptions with economy and precision. I was fortunate in having the book at hand and could follow the maps. Wikipedia also has a number of excellent Civil War maps that can be used for this purpose.
"Astounding detail, but novices beware!"
First of all, let me say that this is truly a classic. However, like classes in college that require prerequisites before enrolling, make sure you have some background knowledge before diving in.
This is NOT a criticism - just an observation for those who may not realize the depth & breadth of the book. As an example, cities, towns, rivers and other geographic locations are mentioned - often without reference to the states in which they reside. Generals and military leaders are discussed at times without stating which side they are on - the reader must figure it out by context.
However, for those who have at least a working knowlege of the civil war and/or a general knowlege of the geography of the states involved, this is a great read. The biographies of Lincoln, Jefferson Davis and Grant are fantastic! The story of the first naval battle with ironclads and the effect on naval warfare was fascinating, as were all the stories regarding naval battles. The detail regarding letters between the two presidents and their generals was also insightful.
This is a great book, but if all you know about the Civil war is that the North won and that the major characters were Lincoln, Davis, Lee & Grant, you may want to read a more general account of the Civil war or watch Ken Burns' PBS special before starting. On the other hand if you have an interest in the civil war, there is an incredible amount of detail about the generals and politicians involved and the battles of the war, both major and minor. And, on top of this, it's a bargain for a 32 disk audiobook (and this is the shortest of the three parts!). And the narrator is great!
"One of the great literary achievements of all time"
Yesterday I finished listening to the final volume of this series, and am left feeling somewhere between awe over the sheer value and magnitude of this amazing work and depression over what seems a bit like the loss of a dear friend.
In fact, I'm tempted to start the series over!
Listening to these books while making some independent study of what I've learned from them has been, without doubt, the most personally enriching project I've ever undertaken. My understanding of every aspect of these key years in American history is unlike any other -- including years I've personally experienced.
Given the intense level of detail consistently manifest in this book, I had to continually remind myself that Foote's wasn't actually there to personally document these events.
That said, I should point out that this series is not for everybody. Unless you're serious about really understanding *everything* that happened during the US Civil War, you'll probably grow bored, very quickly.
If, on the other hand, you value deep context and objective examination based on eye-witness accounts and the assessments of noted historians, you'll adore this series.
And then you'll probably buy the print version, like me.
Again, I cannot begin to heap enough praise on this work.
"Not a Civil War Buff"
I was drawn to this book after years of living in Virginia and passing signs every 30 seconds mark some major (or often minor) event in the Civil War. Even from that perspective this book is a masterpiece. It is so well written and informative that you can't put it down (or I guess press stop(?)) Be prepared for the second and third volumes, because you won't want to miss them.
"The Civil War: A Narrative, Volume I (Unabridged"
Not for the timid, this is a long detailed "narrative" on the Civil War. It is well done and mixes information from published history, historical letters and newspaper articles in a manner that gives the tone and mood of both the union and confederate sides of the War thoughout all three books. It ranks of one of the best non-fiction audible titles I have listened to and one of the few where I was "stuck in the driveway" waiting for things to happen many times.
"If only the narrator was as good as the writer"
I have given this book 4 stars based on the extraordinary writting and storytelling ability of the author Shelby Foote. It is a massive and riveting account of the War told in detail but never boring.
It fails to rate a fifth star due the narration of the book. The sound quality is uneven and the reader takes long pauses when there seems to be no natural break in the text, and then goes rambling on at places where there seems to be a natual break in the text.
The most annoying aspect of the reader was his habit of mispronouncing place names and the names of people. Anyone with an interest in the Civil War or 19th century American history will be familiar with the names that are being mispronounced and I am sure like me will find it disconcerting.
These are minor problems with what is overall a great piece of writing and a wonderful story.
"Excellent listening, great book"
I read all three volumes twenty years ago and enjoyed them immensely. I never thought I read them again until I got an iPod and found Audible.com. I've gone through the first book in a little over two weeks, reading it the first time took over two months. I like the reader's voice, although he doesn't realize how some names should be pronounce (i.e., Cairo is pronounced 'kay-row' in southern Illinois). I look forward to listening to the other two books.
"One of the greatest works ever"
If you've never read a civil war book before, I'd recommend reading another book that provides a short overview before delving into this series. It has so much detail that you can lose the forest for the trees if its your first foray into this subject. Its also possible to not understand the import of some of the events because Foote does such a solid job of just telling the story, without providing much commentary or characterization. So, in short, you'll get more out of this if its not your first introduction to the civil war. That said, the thing that surprised me about it was how well written it is and how refreshingly free from moral judgment it is. Some parts of it are also genuinely moving - especially Stonewall's death. The battle of Gettysburg is so well done it could be a book by itself. I hope other historical authors are taking a lesson from Foote - this is exactly how to do it.
Mr. Foote Brings the Civil War to life. This is without question the best History of any sort I have "read" in a very long time. The only possible criticism is that without the maps and illustrations a printed copy would provide, the text can be hard to follow at times. A fact of life with audio books.
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