After trying out the first volume, I went on to listen to all three. The writing is detailed enough to be interesting but moves quickly enough that the reader never feels stuck at any one battle or on any one character. The author's tone is reasonably neutral and he gives all the different participants, both North and South, their due but over time it becomes increasingly obvious where the author's heart lies. If the preamble to the US Constitution states that all men were created equal, it becomes apparent in small ways over the course of the books that Southern soldiers and especially Southern officers were created more equal. The Confederate armies (they are never referred to as "Rebels")behave more bravely and nobly in every battle and win nearly every battle though they are sometimes required by circumstances, as at Gettysburg, to make strategic withdrawals. It therefore comes as something of a surprise at Appomattox when General Lee, much against his will, is prevailed upon to surrender his army to avoid further bloodshed. Some may also not know that President Lincoln was killed by "a Northern bullet." Reconstruction is given short shrift as is General Grant's life after the war, but the trilogy concludes with a full account of the long life of Jefferson Davis (who outlives most of the other principals)who never deigns to request a pardon and so can never re-enter political life but lives to become a symbol of Southern ideals. If you are from the South, this will probably appeal greatly to you and if your sympathies are more Northern (as mine are) then it will give you a greater appreciation for why the Civil War was fought in the first place and how the two points of view could not otherwise be reconciled. The writing is never dull and that is saying a lot for a work of this length. I can freely recommend it to those with some patience and a willingness to see both sides of a conflict.
Shelby Foote is very even-handed in his history of the Cvil War
I think most of us who bought the audio, became interested because of Ken Burns's Civil War documentary.
There was a lot of cut and paste with the audio book. There were a lot of vocal insertions by the reader/narrator--why, I have no idea--but they were very annoying.
This three volume narrative of the Civil War is simply outstanding. It is expertly written combining Union and Confederate war operations as well as political positions from both points of view. Worth every moment.
I am finishing the final volume of this wonderful history. I drive about an hour per day and more often than not, I regret the end of my journey because there is so much more story to listen to. Masterful work! My thanks to the author and narrator for a job very well done.
Increasing my ops tempo by allowing storytellers to whisper in my ear(buds).
Compendium of Facial Hair and Human Tragedy Dispassionately Told
This is a review of all three volumes, consisting as they do, one massive narrative history. Having read several listener reviews and having watched Ken Burns’ PBS series on the Civil War in which Shelby Foote is a frequent contributor, I was anticipating a masterful immersion into Civil War history. I was, however, disappointed at the disjointed and disoriented feeling these books gave me. Hearing brief segments of Shelby Foote on video explaining the stories of the Civil War is rich and fantastic. His Southern drawl is warm and interesting. But hearing Grover Gardner read Shelby Foote’s words is a quite different experience.
Perhaps it is the massive scope that this work attempt to encompass. There are a very great number of military campaigns to relate and a cast of thousands to profile. The political currents are covered and are the best parts of this work. The battles scenes seem to blur together—this could very well be an accurate sensation of the confusion and fog of was—but as a listening experience, confusion is not one of my goals.
Foote is obsessed with the descriptions of the men involved in the great struggle. His description of the facial hair of the various military commanders borders on obsessive and would be sufficient for a police sketch-artist to provide an accurate drawing of the perpetrators General—would that he spent as much of his talents on providing equally perspicacious accounts of the details of the various military campaigns.
In all, the trilogy covers a lot of ground, relating the Civil War in a series of smaller anecdotal accounts of various other elements, political campaigns, military campaigns, and soldiers camping out in the field waiting for the order to suffer the pains of battle. I can say that I learned a lot from this work but I found myself trying to place the various tidbits of knowledge within the framework of the Civil War that I already had in my head. This work did nothing to modify or improve the framework of Civil War understanding that watching Ken Burn’s PBS documentary had placed there years ago, and so I consider it a failure in being a definitive history of the War Between the States. I just finished listening to 132 hours of material on the Civil War and I feel as if I need to again watch the Ken Burns documentary to put thins back in historical perspective.
For examples of successful narrative histories in three volumes you may want to listen to Richard J. Evans’ insightful Nazi history in three volumes: THE COMING OF THE THRID REICH, THE THIRD REICH IN POWER, and THE THIRD REICH AT WAR. If biography is what you are seeking look no further than William Manchester’s account of the life of Winston Churchill: THE LAST LION: VISIONS OF GLORY, THE LAST LION: ALONE, and THE LAST LION: DEFENDER OF THE REALM—the last co-written with Paul Reid.
The production values displayed in Shelby Foote’s Civil War audiobook are not up to the average book available here on Audible, or even the average Blackstone audiobook. There are many shifts in voice tone and timber that are characteristic of the breaks where edits are made between recording sessions. In places the edits occur several times within a paragraph. It seems that the editing choice was made to re-record a little as possible, choosing instead to insert the corrected words and phrases in place of having the narrator re-read a corrected section entire. Sadly, this is not the most discouraging word I have on the subject.
Grover Gardner delivers his usual perfect diction and impassive monotone delivery. If you love him this will be fantastic for you. I know he is very popular, the past winner of several Audie awards. He, for me, is always an obstacle to be overcome. Sorry. find that hearing his nasally voice in my head for several hours causes my soft palate to elevate as I unconsciously attempt to sub-vocalize his high-pitch intonations along with his voice in my ear. To be fair, he is always easy to understand and reads with great pacing. The timbre of his voice carries well, making it a good choice for listening in a noisy environment. In fact, having loud ambient noise helps take the focus off of the voice quality making it easier to tolerate. The problem is that Mr. Gardner never becomes “the voice in my head” that some listeners find so desirable. He is too intrusive, an alien infringement on the solace of my mind. And, what is more, he does not do character voices. I prefer a more dramatic performance, one that does not try to read to me but that tries to paint visual images with different voices and characterizations on the canvas of my mind—a performance. I prize many fiction narrators for their dramatic talent. Some may say that such melodrama may be fine for fiction but not for non-fiction. They seek someone to just read the words on the page. I disagree, seeking over-the-top performances in all my audiobooks.
Yesterday when I knew that my time with Mr. Gardner was coming to a much anticipated end, I took the opportunity to play sections of several audiobooks that I had loaded on my phone, to my daughters at the dinner table to elicit their reactions. (I am trying to cultivate the next generation of Audible customers.) First I played a brief section of Christopher Aruffo reading POE, then I played Tavia Gilbert in HALFWAY TO THE GRAVE, both of whom they thought were excellent. I followed that with Jonathan Davis’ inspired rendering of SNOWCRASH, Wil Wheaton in READY PLAYER ONE , Charles Stransky reading RED MOON RISING, Jack Vance delivering SHERLOCK HOLMES, and then Rob Inglis doing Tolkein. These garnered less enthusiastic reactions but all were deemed worthy. After these we excerpted Bronson Pinchot reciting ON STRANGER TIDES and Todd Mclaren doing ALTERED CARBON, two of my absolute favorites: my daughters concurred. Then, without fanfare, or warning, I played a bit of THE CIVIL WAR, narrated by the award winning Grover Gardner… All three of them burst out laughing. One daughter described the experience as, and I quote, “like a man with a frog in his throat talking while pinching his nose.” Aptly put.
Reviewing Shelby Foote's narrative is almost as complicated as the material it proposes to explain. Brining the Civil War to the average reader (listener) is difficult in itself; it is grim history, and that is the only thing everyone agrees on. Limited to facts, it's dry and short, because every piece of information comes from the writing of those intimately involved in a radical clash of viewpoints, so facts come in the form of dates, names, and sometimes, numbers. Foote endeavored, therefore, to put a narrative forward, not a history, and as such, this is a masterwork. But even Foote had his point of view, as a Mississippian in the late 1950's to early 1960's, and so it is good to know as much history as there is before diving into the nearly six full days of solid narration. Foote's bias is, not surprisingly, toward the south, and is very subtle, so if you know the history as well as the average student, you will find yourself filling in the blanks without thought. Blanks are the primary vehicle of bias for Foote, along with some understatement, a little overstatement, and conclusions that are not wrong, but not provable either. The bias also tends to highlight the deeds of armies, which are not the main focus of the narrative, which makes itself indispensable by tying the economy, politics, interpersonal military relationships, even the weather, into a story that the reader will not put down after the first chapter of dusty names and numbers. In this way it has not only become shorthand for historians, but appeals to academicians and casual readers alike. As I said, it is complicated, but less that 5 stars of 5 is not a credible score.
The performance is almost flawless. This may sound like hyperbole, but I've listened to it backward and forward, and it doesn't get old; Gardner's reading is both businesslike and interesting, and aside for a problem pronouncing Spanish town names in New Mexico, hits names, dates, intonation, inflection, structure and cadence despite the quaint turn of phrase from the 1860's, the complicated sentences that Foote enjoyed, and the rapid change from dry humor to dark descriptions that litter the text. It is completely enjoyable.
The weakness of this package is the overall quality. I was disappointed to find that the recording is noticeably uneven, making editing breaks so obvious as to be distracting at times. Even so, the Gardner and Foote make this, warts notwithstanding, something that anyone interested in our country's first major course correction.
I have now listened to the entire three volume work three times! I do not get tired of it. A great mix of history, anecdote, interesting, hard core, light, invaluable for today....how did Shelby Foote do it?!
Grover Gardener does a fantastic job with taking on Shelby Foote's unequaled three volume work on the civil war. I had been intimidated by the shear volume of Foote's narrative and took a chance with this one- I was not disappointed. This truly is a narrative and is perfectly suited to the audio-book medium.While not for the casual reader, if you want to know who was who, who they really were, and what really happened, I don't think there is another book out there to match this one.I highly recommend it to anyone interested in US history.
Maybe one day when I'm retired, but the entire 3 volumes total something like 140 hours.,
Grant and Sherman. Grant has a quite nobility while Sherman is always entertaining. Together they forged a friendship which was at once moving and essential to saving the Union. I grew to respect almost all the characters and like most of them, including the Confederates who were fighting for a dispicable cause, but I would have to single out Jefferson Davis as a little weasle. I hear that Shelby Foote admired him and was overely generous to him. If so I was not sold. The scene with him trying to allude the Federal soldiers in his wife's shawl like a little bitch was too delicious.
With my busy schedule I could never have found time to read this massive history, but thanks to Audible I was able to have Grover read it to me, and it filled me with 140 hours of pleasure.
Nice even reading, after having seen Shelby Foote in Ken Burns' Civil War documentary, it's nice to see Gardner pick up a lot of Foote's nuances and emphasis