©1974 Shelby Foote; (P)1997 Blackstone Audiobooks
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.
The previous reviewer hits the nail on the head when he says that this is not for the faint hearted. But for those contemplating the journey, it is very worthwhile. This is narrative history at its best. Shelby Foote writes wonderfully well and with tremendous clarity, he is punctillious about avoiding judgement or passing opinions, leaving the facts to speak largely for themselves (though, that said, his sardonic tone adds a certain zest to his depiction of the facts).
I have read these books before, so for me it was like walking a journey for which one would normally use a faster mode of transport. It takes longer of course, but the gain is worth having - the way the story unfolds in all its drama and richness of detail, the triumphs and tragedies at both a personal and national level, the countless 'what ifs'. I particularly enjoyed the sections dealing with Lincoln's assassination - what a tragedy for the country that was - and with Jefferson Davis' trials and tribulations after the fighting was over.
One detail that prospective listeners might like to bear in mind: it would be very difficult not to say impossible to follow the narrative without access to maps of the major campaigns and batles. I am reasonably familiar with the history but found myself regularly turning to the written text to review a map.
But subject to all these points, strongly recommended - excellent narration too.
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