Here begins one of the most remarkable works of history ever fashioned. All the great battles are here, of course, from Bull Run through Shiloh, the Seven Days, Second Manassas to Antietam, and Perryville in the fall of 1862, but so are the smaller and often equally important engagements on both land and sea: Ball's Bluff, Fort Donelson, Pea Ridge, Island Ten, New Orleans, Monitor versus Merimac, and Stonewall Jackson's Valley Campaign, to mention only a few.
And perhaps never before have these conflicts been so clearly, so dramatically, and so excitingly presented. The word "narrative" is the key, not only to this extraordinary book's incandescence, but also to its truth. The story is told entirely from the point of view of the people involved in it. The listener not only learns what was happening in the North and South, on the political, military, diplomatic, and home fronts, he lives through the events as if he were there. This is the way it was, in its entirety, as far as Shelby Foote could discover it during years of exhaustive research.
Bonus: In partnership with Audible and Playtone, the television and film producer behind the award-winning series Band of Brothers, John Adams, and The Pacific, this audiobook includes an original introduction, written and read by acclaimed documentarian Ken Burns. For more from Audible and Playtone, click here.
©1986 Shelby Foote (P)2011 Blackstone Audio
While this book gives all of the requisite dates and battle movements of armies, which can be a little hard to follow without the maps and apendixes a book like this is sure to come with, it's narrative styles makes learning the civil war a delight. This book delves deeply into the beginnings of the civil war and shows the characters of the people behind the start of the war fairly. People easily take sides when it comes to civil war, but this book gives a relatively unbiased view of what the author believies happened that led to the war. A very long, but rewarding listen.
Because 2011 marks the beginning of the Civil War Sesquicentennial, Foote's marvelous narrative is a great introduction to the history of the conflict, and to the people and personalities who lived and fought it. This first volume covers from shortly before the start of the war in 1861 until just after the battles of Antietam and Perryville in the late summer-early autumn of 1862.
As some others have noted, this is a highly readable (and listenable) account, but the absence of maps does detract from the experience a bit because the original version was well-supplemented with them, and Foote wrote the story assuming that the reader would have their aid in the original version. Still, even in audio-only, it's a thorough, entertaining account of the era, written with a deft hand by a man who was, first and foremost a novelist; he thus brings a storyteller's gift to this work, stopping every so often in the chronological account of the events to spend some time recounting the personal history and idiosyncrasies of the men (and occasional women) who populate the story.
Those new to the story will perhaps be surprised to discover that the war was fought not only in Virginia and Tennessee, but also in Arkansas, along most of the Mississippi River, and even in the mountains of New Mexico. For a Southerner, Foote managed to get deeply into the psyche of Abraham Lincoln, and despite his regional origins, tells the story fairly, giving each side its due and each major participant the praise or scorn he deserves.
The 37+ hours went far more quickly than I would have thought possible, and left me wanting to delve immediately into volume 2. The only drawback was the narrator, whom many people seem to like, but whose voice I have always found a tad grating. He does a competent job with the pace and the pronunciation, though, and if you don't find the sound of his voice displeasing (it grows on you after a while -- sort of), it doesn't detract from a wonderful book.
I love this book because it takes a military history and turns it into what reads like a compilation of biographies. Every engagement, every decision, described from inside the heads of those who were there. Every new, important character receives a background sketch. The natural result of this is a very human history of a very epic period in American history. I recommend this book to everyone interested in American history.
Make no mistake: We're all mammals here.
Foote's narrative history of the war is beautifully written. Once you start reading (or listening), you're hooked. This 3-vol. set of recordings, however, leaves a lot to be desired. There is background feedback which is very prevalent in volumes 1 and 2, and the narrator mispronounces many names (example, Kanawha). The most unforgivable aspect of the recordings however, is found in the third and final volume in which entire seven-hour chunks of the book are not broken into subsections. When listening on an iPod, it's very easy to brush the controls and cause it to go backwards or forwards an entire section. When there are no subsections, this means holding the fast forward (or reverse) button down through hours of narration trying to find your place. It only happened to me once, but that was frustrating enough. The book gets 5 stars, but the audio version leaves a lot to be desired.
I loved every minute of each of the three volumes of Shelby Foote's masterpiece. It was a deeply facinating journey through those tumultous times and events. I felt this audiobook bought to life the great charachters and personalities that defined the Civil War. Grover Gardners reading of this was outstanding and suited perfectly to the subject.
I am quite enjoying this story; it's lively, interesting, well-told. Blackstone Audio's bargain-basement production values, however, distract terribly from the audiobook. While the primary narrator is a fairly skilled reader, his abilities are lacking in some points, including, as mentioned by another reviewer, pronunciation; various words are mispronounced throughout the book, and I puzzled for some time (in disbelief and amusement) over Foote's describing one Army general as "flamboyant in a dress" before I figured out that he meant the general was "flamboyant in address" - a point which could have been clarified with the proper pronunciation. Another problem with the narrator is his simply having been chosen for the job, because his voice has a somewhat grating nasal quality I found it more difficult to get past than I usually do such narrators' quirks. But worst of all are the numerous terrible, obvious overdubs by DIFFERENT NARRATORS that we're supposed to just take in stride and not notice at all. There are in fact at least three and possibly four different narrators' voices heard in this first volume, with the dubbed-in narrators' voices even more grating than Mr. Gardner's, and the combination of their vocal qualities and the abrupt, brief, and obvious drop-ins in which they're heard are so distracting that I seldom assimilate what's said during the overdubs because my mind is stuck in its disbelief that Blackstone would let such glaring flaws make it into the final version of the audiobook. It's really pathetic.
Also, one quality of the written book that doesn't translate well into audio is the way Foote will mention a person by name once and then refer to him exclusively by second-person pronouns for minutes on end, such that if you missed the one mention of his name earlier on, you may have no idea who's being talked about for five minutes at a time.
So in the end, this book is enjoyable, but I'd probably recommend reading it over listening to it.
I have read the entire set and am now listening to it too. It is good history and a good read -- almost impossible to put down despite the wealth of detail. Eminently fair in perspective.
The recorded version is very well done.
I have read Foote's three volume Civil War Narrative twice and thought I would give the audio version a try. Excellent narration of Foote's fine work. Highly recommended and certainly one of best audiobooks around.
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