I wish all audiobooks were this good. This is a well written book with fantastic narration. I usually zone out a little listening to a book of this length and sometimes find myself getting overwhelmed. I was able to listen to this one endlessly however - primarily because the narrative is crisp and engaging and the narrator is superb. I could just dive in and pick up where I left off and I was instantly swept up in it without ever being overwhelmed. This combination of good writing and good narrative is very rare - so it's refreshing when I discover it. This is one of the few books that I could listen to multiple times.
I have never read Shelby Foote, but I understand what the other reviewers are saying. This is a survey of an entire epoch of U.S. history (roughly 1848 - 1865) It is an overview of the politics, culture, society, and military history of the times - with an emphasis on how these currents interrelate and influence each other (without ever getting boring or too academic) I think that it succeeds admirably.
As an example, the first few hours (yes, hours) are given over to discussing the crisis of the 1850s after the Mexican War. This section in itself could be its own little gem of a book, as it describes in detail the workings of the compromise of 1850, the Fugitive Slave Law, "bleeding" Kansas, Dred Scott, U.S. designs to acquire Cuba and other territory in S. America etc etc. It's presented in a compelling way, so by the time you do finally get to Fort Sumter - it has a lot more resonance and punch.
While there is a lot of description given to battles, tactics, troop movements, generals etc, it is not a strict "military history" per se .. So if you are interested in that kind of nuts & bolts detail, Shelby Foote might be more your style.
Still, I think this is an indispensable book for understanding the era, and a sheer pleasure to listen to.
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