July 1863. The Confederate Army of Northern Virginia is invading the North. General Robert E. Lee has made this daring and massive move with 70,000 men in a determined effort to draw out the Union Army of the Potomac and mortally wound it. His right hand is General James Longstreet, a brooding man who is loyal to Lee but stubbornly argues against his plan. Opposing them is an unknown factor: General George Meade, who has taken command of the Army only two days before what will be perhaps the crucial battle of the Civil War.
In the four most bloody and courageous days of our nation's history, two armies fight for two conflicting dreams. One dreams of freedom, the other of a way of life. More than rifles and bullets are carried into battle. The soldiers carry memories. Promises. Love. And more than men fall on those Pennsylvania fields. Bright futures, untested innocence, and pristine beauty are also the casualties of war.
The Killer Angels is unique, sweeping, unforgettable, a dramatic re-creation of the battleground for America's destiny.
©1974 Michael Shaara, copyright renewed 2002 Jeffrey M. Shaara & Lila E. Shaara; (P)2004 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.
"Shaara carries [the reader] swiftly and dramatically to a climax as exciting as if it were being heard for the first time." (The Seattle Times)
"The best and most realistic historical novel about war I have ever read." (General H. Norman Schwarzkopf)
I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^
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.
Family on the move.
Fantastically written and read. Highly recommended for those seeking to understand the American Civil War and the characters behind it--focusing on the Battle at Gettysburg, PA.
“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.
Say something about yourself!
I'm not a Civil War buff and although I have read a great deal of military history, Michael Shaara made Gettysburg come alive. While not avoiding the underlying cause of the war he does not use the battle to make a political statement or to try to interpret the underlying causes of the war through today's morays. He treats the leaders of both sides with humanity and dignity. He provides a soldiers perspective of battle and its and the people who fought there. The narration is outstanding. Wonderful historical fiction.
I read nothing that is popular.
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.
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.
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 don't like to give anything five stars but this was a darned good experience for me on many levels - the history, the entertainment, and the example of good writing - moving tales engaging characters on both sides, a well-architected story in which the characters remained amazingly distinct and clear, plus some great American English prose. Hearing the history presented this way brings it to life and makes these characters and events recognizable when I see them in other venues - much more than simply reading a dry paragraph in a textbook. An enjoyable, expanding, and worthwhile investment.
Good voices that helped keep the large cast of characters clear in my head. Enough accent to provide color and atmosphere to the reading. Not overacted, which is appreciated, but enough.
He has a terrific voice and varies it well for the different characters, but it's just too slow. There's a kind of anchorman quality to it, an "every word has to weigh something" quality to it. I "fixed" the issue by listening to the book at double-speed on my iPod, and I enjoyed his performance after that.
In his introduction to the edition I read, Shaara’s son Jeff says that the novel’s origins date to a family trip they took to Gettysburg in 1964 for the centennial of the battle. The book grew out of Shaara’s impulse to tell the story to his family that day from the perspective of the different figures who lived it, and it gave birth to what may well be a new way of recounting history. It’s now been a half century since that family trip, and I have to hand it to Shaara – the method he developed is still effective, still capable of bringing some of the power of that history to life.
I’d go so far as to argue that Shaara, in effect, created the template for the fantastic history that underlies George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. That is, by carving a huge war story into smaller pieces – pieces framed by the perspective of a single participant – he gives the impression of a story larger than any one person could see and yet always connected to a human perspective.
There are probably some slow parts to all of this. It takes a while to establish some of the characters, and, since the novel presumes greater familiarity with the details of Gettysburg than most of us educated in the last 40 years have, some of the foreshadowing either misses the mark or seems heavy-handed.
But none of those age spots really dim the accomplishment here. There really is something thrilling about the combat. No one is ever allowed to be a true villain, and few of the heroes on either side escape without some blemishes. It celebrates the men who fought in the war more than it champions any particular cause and, in a small way, it serves as a belated effort at Reconstruction – a way of imagining a past usable by both the North and the South to make sense of a united future.
I’m not quite sure that each of these characters assumes the dimensions of a fully realized character, but there’s no question that Shaara gives us different ways of thinking about the same conflict. Whether it’s a matter of States Rights as an extension of the original Revolutionary impulse or the notion that freedom for any depends on freedom for all, it is always a matter of recognizing the importance of courage and level-headedness in impossible circumstances.
And it’s also at times a dramatic, even riveting story. The account of Chamberlain’s defense of Little Round Top had me at the edge of my seat. It was action as thrilling as anything you’ll find in Game of Thrones but it was even more rewarding for being a reflection of genuine history.
I know there have been some well-regarded films to grow out of Shaara’s work (and that his son has continued the family tradition, applying the same literary method to other periods of American military history), and I intend to explore them. This seems a terrific place to start with all of that, though, with a new way to see history that Shaara came up with 50 years ago himself.
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