This was thoroughly enjoyable history. You may be concerned that two volumes (each with four parts) is too intimidating. But when you reach the end, your understanding of the United States will have traveled a very long way. The Civil War informs so much of the way America is today, and it gives priceless perspective on contemporary politics.
I found the book's content to be detailed and balanced. The author backs up his narrative with primary source material. The author also supplies several interpretations of events as described by past and present historians. When the author gives his own opinion (which I found helpful and enlightening), he explains his reasoning adeptly and honestly.
The modern United States owes much of its substance to Lincoln and the outcome of the Civil War. The country was reborn as a result of the war and the political and social agenda of the Republican Party. Slavery is not only illegal, but it is no longer regarded as a "social good" by any political force. There is a strong central government with a national currency and income tax. McPherson directly addresses the presence of Southern apologist history whose efforts to reframe the Civil War as a "state's rights" disagreement does not hold water. Slavery and its role in America was central to the dispute as the author will show.
The scope of the books are breathtaking. There is of course the military aspect which the author covers with rich detail. There is the social and political aspects which are just as interesting. One segment is devoted solely to treatment of prisoners of war, which shed so much light on the two people's differing views. The refusal on the part of the South to acknowledge black soldiers fighting for the North as "prisoners of war" broke down the prisoner exchange system and lead to dismal treatment of prisoners including the infamous Andersonville prison.
I won't spoil the book for you, but I always get teary-eyed when I near the ending. It is a beautifully written conclusion to an incredible story. There is no fiction that can beat this real-life drama.
Regarding the narrator, his reading is perfect. When he reads quotes from Southerners, he uses an accent which seems appropriate. It is not so exaggerated but it flows nicely in the story. Sometimes I wonder if the actual authors he quotes, like Jefferson Davis, even talked like that. In real life, there may not have been much of a difference between Northern and Southern "dialects" until after the war. The narrator does a really great job bringing the story alive.
If you are even remotely interested in the Civil War, you'll love this book. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It ought to get seven stars. Out of the entire Oxford American History series, this one is the prize. It is by far the best written and the best narrated. Prepare to be dazzled, surprised, and inspired.
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