I can trace the exact moment I realized I will never completely turn into my mother to this book. Mostly because it made me realize I was in fact, partly, turning into my father. I sat there reading thinking, “fascinating! I wonder how historically accurate that is. I should look it up.” While sipping Irish whiskey. All that I was missing was a pipe and a repurposed military jacket and BOOM! just like dear old dad.
But that is not the book’s fault. Poor book being made fun of like that. It really is a wonderfully written piece of historical fiction. There was a concerted attempt to not force more modern language into the thoughts of the characters creating this subtle literary ambiance. I could almost hear the stamp of horse hooves, the slow and steady step of man, the blast of metal on metal as cannons fired overhead.
In history class we are taught a lot about the Civil War, not a lot of which I remember. But I do remember, North good and South naughty. Yet this book jumps between soldiers on both sides and I felt for both of them. Union and Rebel alike, Michael Shaara does the incredible. He makes them just men. With hopes, dreams, joys, and loss. You do not find him favoring one over the other simply because they won or lost the battle. Mostly, just because no matter what side they are on they are idiots. Good to know that trait is universal, I would hate for anyone to have a monopoly on that.
To me this book moved almost languidly. There was no rush to the finish, the battle scenes themselves slowed down like you see in the movies. The characters, real people just now confined to our history books or family tales, came alive in the simple everyday manner of mankind. There is no sweeping romance, no boldly dramatic scene, and yet this work is fascinating cover to cover.
Betty gives this two spoons way up (my highest honor after all). With the caveat that this is not light, beach reading. This book is heavy because it is true, even when it is light in word.
Love and cannon fire,
PS the most intriguing part of this book for me was when the title is explained. It is a superbly blunt commentary on man, and I adore it.