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on October 25, 2003
North and South is the first novel in a trilogy dealing with the American Civil War, and it is truly a remarkable work; well worth reading. I myself have read the novel many times over the past twenty years. The novel focuses on two families--the Hazards of Pennsylvania, and the Mains of South Carolina--during the period from approximately 1840 through the beginning of the Civil War. These two families, bound by close ties of friendship (the sons of each are best friends at West Point and serve in the Army together during the Mexican War) and marriage, find these ties tested by the powerful forces of political and social strife that rocked the country during this period, ultimately leading to civil war.
This is a great story. Author John Jakes does a tremendous job of transporting the reader into the period immediately before the Civil War. The country was torn by political strife that could not be resolved by the ordinary institutions of civil government, and Jakes does a masterful job of explaining this within the format of a novel, and showing how this atmosphere affected ordinary people, and their friendships and relationships. The Hazards and the Mains are unforgettable. Jakes shows how decent people (as well as people not so decent) interacted with the institution of slavery on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line.
One of the best parts of the novel deals with the period during the 1840s when the two main protagonists are classmates together at West Point. This is a well-researched tale that is very insightful as regards life and strife at the military academy during a pivotal period of American history. It helps the reader understand the important role that West Point played in the nation's history during the Mexican War and, of course, the Civil War. And perhaps today.
This novel rates the overused label of "classic" and in my opinion represents one of the very best novels of the Civil War. It is, incidentally, the best novel of Jakes" "North and South" trilogy.
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on March 18, 2001
North and South is the story of the Hazard and Main families. George Hazard and Orry Main meet on the way to West Point. The two form a strong bond and become lifelong friends. In fact, the families become quite close. The bond and friendship of the families are tested by the events of the world and by family members. North and South tells us the events leading up to the Civil War and the impact they have on the two families.
This book is very well written. Mr. Jakes conveys many emotions during the 800+ pages. There is humor, sorrow, pity, anger, confusion, and love just to name a few. I couldn't help but feel sorry for the families and all they went through. Reading this book I think I got a great understanding of what the country must have been like during this time. There is a lot of detail put into the story. It makes it very interesting to read.
North and South is a book definitely worth reading. It will put you on the edge of your seat and keep you turning the pages to find out what will happen next. It doesn't matter if you're a history fanatic or not, this book is excellent. Definitely worth the time reading it.
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on January 5, 2001
I just finished North and South and can't wait to move on to Love and War. When I first picked up the book, I didnt realize the book was almost entirely taking place in the years that led up to the outbreak of war. I absolutely loved the prologue, the story of Orry and George at West Point, life in the south at Mont Royal, and Charles and Billy becoming so similar to their brothers. This book was great in that not only did you learn about what the times were like but you also get a fantastic fictional story out of it. The characters and storylines are so strong you can almost feel what it was like to live in both the north and the south and you can commiserate with the characters. I liked the way Jakes writes: it flows and is an easy read. This was the first book I read by Jakes and I look forward to finishing the North and South series and also beginning the Kent Family series. I recommend this one highly.
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on January 29, 2001
I picked this book up on a whim. Boy was I surprised! I don't usually like "War" novels, but this book is wonderful. The dialogue is good, the plot draws you in & you really come to care about the characters. I felt like I got to know George, Orry, Madeline, Constance, Billy & Charles, Brett & Ashton.
The only downfall I could find with this book is that I feel like I was reading EVERYTHING about every day of their lives. It makes the book richer, yes, but it also can be very draining to read.
In fact, instead of just launching myself into the 2nd book (which is what I usually do), I am taking a break. The topics covered in N&S are so deep that you almost have to do that in order to bring yourself back to the current time.
With all that, please pick up this book & transport yourself to a different time, where everything WASN'T black & white.
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on December 6, 2003
Don't believe me? Read these books. North and South is set during the Civil War, which as I'd said in the review of
Glory In The Name, was a war of transition. However, it's more than that. It's the story of two families. The Hazards and the Mains. George Hazard and Orry Main meet at West
Point and they couldn't be any more different. Orry Main,
originally De Main, is descended from a wealthy Heugenot,
(French Protestant), family. George Hazard, on the other hand, is descended from a fugitive. Orry and George interact with Ulysses S. Grant, and other historical figures like Robert E. Lee, and John Brown. This isn't about the naval
war of the Civil War. If you want to read about that, Glory In The Name's your best bet. Orry's in love with a woman who's married to a sadistic bastard. North and South is basically about the land war of the Civil War.
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on July 12, 2000
John Jakes is one of my favorite authors and the "North and South" books rank in my favorite top 10, too. I know these books are very long, but once you start reading, you don't even think about it. The characters are described so well, you feel like you are a part of their lives and you are actually living in another century. My favorite characters are Orry and Madeline, George and Constance, and Brett and Billy. John Jakes keeps you on the edge of seat during the part when Orry and George are fighting in the Mexican war. You grow to despise characters like Bent, Justin LaMotte, and Virgilia Hazard. I'd just like to punch that Justin LaMotte right in the nose! He is the biggest jerk! So start reading this book - then you have to read the sequels - they are equally as good!
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on August 1, 1998
North and South may be over 700 pages in lenght, but it is a book that simply cannot be put down. The way that the characters flow in and out of major events before the civil war is a true work of art. The characters themselves seem so real that you fall in love with each of them as you follow the individual trails of their lives. I was sad to see the book come to an end, but with parts 2 and 3 of the trilogy remaining to be read, I didn't have time to feel much sadness! The TV series "North and South" is based fairly close to the book. The only exception is Orry's injury in the movie is his leg, whereas in the book, well...I guess you'll have to read it for yourselves!
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on June 21, 1998
Jakes combines romance and history in this tale of two families, one Northern and one Southern, tied by friendship but almost torn apart by the turmoil the US experiences prior to the Civil War. I admire Jakes for beginning this book in the 1840s and tackling the pre-war era that is so important for fully understanding the war. So many historical fiction writers begin their works just as the war begins and the background is not properly set. Jakes' charcters, especially those of Orry, George, Charles, Madeline, Ashton, Brett and Billy are well drawn and capture the reader's sympathies. The television mini-series didn't do this book justice; it is an excellent read.
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on May 5, 2001
To look at the thickness of these books (North & South, Love & War, and Heaven & Hell) might be a little discouraging. Take heart and plunge right in, no one can tell a story the way Jakes can, He has researched the period and he knows his stuff. You open the cover and begin to read and before you know it, it's over. You catch a glimps of what it was like during that troubling time, both sides of the story are told. This series was insightful and entertaining. If you've only seen the mini-series (which was delightful), read the're missing out!
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on September 10, 2001
A story of two families tied together by West Point
and grudges with too extravagant characterizations of
the female characters. I was disappointed that I would have to buy
two more long books in similar style in order to actually
get some civil war history. The characterization of both
the iron industry and the shipping industry are a little
in advance of actual events from what I have read in other places.
So he fails as a writer in several basic ways. Still a good read ....
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