"... there are times when silence is a poem." - John Fowles, the Magus ^(;,;)^
One of my favorite historical fiction novels of ALL TIME. I read this with my 13 year-old son and 12 year-old daughter and it was amazing. My kids loved it just as much as I did. It was tight, character-driven, and dramatic. Imagine my surprise when my kids are discussing the virtues of Team Chamberlain (smart, honorable, thoughtful, a natural leader) VS Team Longstreet (brilliant, ahead of his time, brooding, quiet).
The Civil War is one of those historical periods that is a bit anachronistic to me. It has elements of romance, chivalry, honor, gentility mixed in with the horrible stench of a modern, brutal war. There are characters like Lee, Chamberlain, Pickett, Stuart, etc., who seem to belong in some Arthurian myth/melodrama next to Longstreet and Hancock who could easily have been cast in some post-apocalyptic Battle Royale. Add to this, the fact that these were real men, with real failings, fighting real friends and the book almost seems to narrate itself.
Anyway, this is a top-shelf war novel -- it educates, it entertains (as much as a war novel can be called entertainment) and it is beautiful. There were some paragraphs I wanted Terence Malick to film.
“I used to command those boys,” Longstreet said. “Difficult thing to fight men you used to command.” Lee said nothing.
I just finished reading this great book and realized that it was 150 years ago this year, this month, that the Civil War ended after 4 years of fighting. This watershed event had me thinking a little more deeply about what I'd read, and why this book felt significant.
While sticking to researched history, author Shaara stays true to the facts as we know them, but has the characters tell their own part of the story. This unique format creates an intimacy
between the narrators and the listener. Whether they are commanding their men in the role of a leader, or alone in reflection, pouring out heart-sick confessions and doubts, you feel connected to them, a part of the events. It was spellbinding, hearing General James Longstreet's quiet doubts about Robert E. Lee's insistence to attack, and his turmoil as he ordered his men up the hill to what he felt would be certain death...the many conflicts are felt in your gut, and tear at your heart.
We learn the names of the battles and commanders, as well as the numbers in school. Some of the information we retained and regurgitated for tests: Antietam - 26,134 casualties, Chickamauga - 34,624 casualties, Gettysburg - 51,112 casualties, a total of 620,000 died. This is the first book on this subject that has made me understand the immensity of those numbers and facts by emphasizing that these were men willing to give up their own lives for the freedom of other men.
I can't give you comparisons to many books on the subject, so far I've read fewer than I intend to. This book was an experience the author allowed me to share with the past, and for that reason it stands out.
The epistolary history of the Civil War shows us that the speech of the time was flowery, emotional and dramatic; therefore, the dialogue reflects that well and not overly so. My opinion is that Stephen Hoye did a very good job interpreting the dialogue in the context of the times. I don't know if all versions of this book have this fantastic introduction (?) but I would certainly make sure! I thought the introduction, read by the author, was exceptionally interesting and set the tone of importance to the content to follow. Very highly recommend.
* I recall my grandfather watching the series Johnny Yuma on TV -- I can still remember, "Johnny Yuma was a rebel, he rode through the West"...a catchy little song. I was memorizing The Gettysburg Address for some elementary school grade; he told me Johnny Yuma was about The Gettysburg Address (at least that's how my young brain understood his comments). I can still recite The Gettysburg Address after all these years (but I can't remember my kids birthdays). I now understand a little more clearly the weight of those words, the many sacrifices that were made.
Putting books on the back burner.
I happen to agree that "The Killer Angels" is the best fictional work on what happened in Gettysburg. After a while, I really forgot that Michael Shaara wrote this novel as a tale. I've read intensively on the Civil War and the American Revolution and while they were all great and informational, a historian can only go so far at narrating the story.
They mostly relies on facts, archives, and try to trace back what happened in a reportive journalism. Most historians cannot captive the audience with first hand battle. They are always looking outside of the window instead of being in the room.
Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres to read. Unlike studying on past events in our history, with historical fiction, you are in the fight, battles, and on the first line. I was extremely impress with Michael Shaara storytelling of Gettysburg, General Lee, Colonel Chamberlain and the war between the Confederate and Union.
Instead of reading about the strategy and what lead up to the Civil War, you feel like you are with the troops, marching the hill and not knowing the expectation to come. You get to understand both side of the Civil War by General Lee and Colonel Chamberlain. I was most interested on knowing about the Union side because most of our history are somewhat bias on the Confederates.
Also, instead of reading about constant blood shed, there are conversational pieces within each troops that make this book to be superb.
Poet, Writer, Novice Planetary Scientist, Musician, Hooligan, Former Audience Guy, Protector of Stupid Princesses.
I was going to say that this novel is "Gettysburg" in a nutshell, but that would be unfair. Killer angels is a book about people, and one of the best examples of character development I have encountered. I can't address the accurateness of the characterizations, but I loved them. I also understand the battle well enough to explain it when I take visitors up to Gettysburg. Killer Angels was, for me, an accidental discovery, and one of the greatest books I have ever "read."
Audible Member Since 2003
Beautifully written, rich with clarity, detail, emotion. The prose is almost poetic. Very easy to follow, transporting the listener back to Gettysburg in early July of 1863. Extremely believable as to the thoughts and words of those who were there at that terrible time in the turning point of the US Civil War. Highly recommend for anybody, not just history buffs.
I read this book every year and this is the first time hearing it as an audio book. Very well done performance on the various characters, including great accents.
Actually takes you into the mind of the officers on both sides of the conflict. How different the attitudes of the Generals. Eye opening revelation of why the south lost the war.
there is something so much better when a book is read to you. I have a tendency to skim, but narration, especilaly good narration, draws you in and keeps you in to the very end.
i sobbed for the last ten minutes, just unbelieveable. truly moving experience.
The end of the battle of Day One, when the Union soldiers drove downhill with just bayonets is something I will never forget, I need to go to Gettysburg just to see where it happened, to see the scale of the battlefield.
on the ground at gettysburg...
Dont miss this one!
The personal nature of the story-telling, the author's ability to recount (accurately, I think) the impressions of key leaders on each side of the battle.
Spoiler alert: Lt Col Joshua Chamberlain of the 20th Maine.
Stephen Hoye's voice characterizations were uniformly superb, whether Yankee, Virginian, or British.
I have recommended it, personally, to anyone who will listen to me. Reading this has enhanced my reading of The Education of Henry Adams and will inform my re-reading of Team of Rivals. In the same way that Melville is able to instill the reader with sympathy for the whale (and THE Whale), Shaara is able to instill sympathy for all the characters - making the battle, itself, therefore, the human tragedy that it was and to this day remains.
One of those books that you wish was a never-ending story.
Avid audible listener for over 10 years.
I read this book in college as required reading in a Civil War history class. Twenty years later it is just as good. It is amazing to think that the outcome of the Civil War could have been different based on a few different decisions. Actually Robert E Lee comes off as reckless and foolish in his decision to fight at Gettysburg even though he was outnumber and the Union forces had the better ground. Longstreet, realizing that he confederate army was between the Union army and Washington, wanted to march of Washington DC. They could have then forced the Union army to attack when the Confederates had better ground.
After listening to the book I watched the Turner miniseries. You can find it on youtube.