26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on April 20, 2013
I grew up in southern West Virginia where stories of the Hatfields and McCoys abound. I missed the TV series, so I was looking forward to reading this book. What a disappointment. The first part of the book, which deals with the feud itself, is almost impossible to follow. Although it is admittedly difficult to sort out the tangled relationships, a skilled author should be able to present a coherent narrative. Worse, the author's obvious bias is all the more glaring when it is layered onto what is supposed to be an historical recounting of these events. Calling people "goons" and "thugs" is unprofessional if you are pretending to be impartial. The second half of the book, which is dripping with sarcasm and snide comments, has little to do with the feud itself, although the author tries to make it relevant with some sophomoric analysis. The only redeeming features are the photographs and some history of what happened to the feud participants. But overall, a dreadful book.
52 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on May 29, 2012
Being from W.V. I have heard many stories of the Hatfield & McCoy feud. The author did a wonderful job. I bought this book in light of the history channel airing their version of the feud. Very interesting to see the variations between fact & fiction. The author did a magnificient job setting the stage of the life & times gone by. Highly advise this read.
57 of 65 people found the following review helpful
on May 23, 2012
I knew little about the infamous Hatfield and McCoys prior to reading Lisa Alther's Blood Feud, but after finishing it late last night a fascination with the topic has been ignited in me. Alther did an amazing job chronicling the facts when available with various possible scenarios to present a compelling tale of murder, betrayal and loss. Without hesitation, I highly recommend this wonderful book.
66 of 77 people found the following review helpful
on May 11, 2012
Lisa Alther has done it again! Following on the heels of her classic non-fiction and historical fiction works on the Melungeons, she traces the lineage of this notorious American mountain feud. As a careful researcher, Alther uses all available primary sources, historic surveys of the clash, personal observation, and visits to important sites and contemporary interviews with individuals who were a part of or related to the original historic characters.
In this balanced recounting of the incidents that occurred over an extended period of time, Alther presents both sides of the story along with verifiable aspects that clarify the story for those unfamiliar with any of the details. She had a knack for 'articulate humor' that is characterized by the best of Southern writers who understand the genres of both fiction and non-fiction.
The dustjacket for this book is a collectible in itself; it has a reverse side with photos of the two progenitors and maps of the related sections of Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia, then it opens up to show a large format family tree from both families. As a lifelong bibliophile, it is clear to me that every person involved in the production of this project has a great appreciation for, not only quality literature, but also, for the impact of the physical nature of a published book; from paper to typeset, to liner papers, cover design and final product. The simplicity of an ebook can't match the euphoria of handling this kind of physical product.
Influenced by her vast experience with fiction writing, Alther makes reading about history both fun and enlightening. Highly recommended.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on May 1, 2013
Not hard to figure which family the author is decended from...then she goes on to inject her own political/social opinions to which I really didnt care to read...I was hoping I was buying an informative unbiased book on this subject,But what I got was DISAPPOINTING,BIAS,injected with personal social views,,,,,Hey AMAZON,,,Can I get my money back????
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on July 3, 2014
In the interest of full disclosure, I will state up front that I am the author of a book on the same subject, "The Hatfields and McCoys after Kevin Costner: Rescuing History."
I was born and raised on Blackberry Creek, a mile from where the Election Day, 1882 events occurred.
Directly descended from Preacher Anderson Hatfield and Uriah McCoy, I knew many people when I was growing up during the late 1940's and 1950's who remembered the actual events of the 1880's.
I began researching the records in Pikeville, Logan, Charleston and Frankfort as a college student fifty-five years ago. I was too busy making a living to write a book on the feud, but the 2012 movie, followed by the books by Alther and King changed that. This book by Ms. Alther was the initial motivation for my book, and the one by Dean King which followed made my book an absolute necessity.
Ms. Alther is a competent novelist, and, had she written a novel based on the characters in the feud story, I would have remained silent. But she sells the book as non-fiction, and has reviews from prestigious sources like the Wall Street Journal lauding her as "an expert on the subject of the feud."
The three editorial reviews following that of the Journal all say that Alther's book is "well researched," or "exhaustively researched."
This book is a conglomeration of previously spun tall tales, spiced with some of the writer's own inventions. I will cite only one of dozens of this author's whoppers to illustrate:
Alther writes, on page 35: "Ranel McCoy did eventually retaliate, though, however blandly. Fifteen months after Harmon's death, in April, 1866, he charged Devil Anse Hatfield with stealing a horse from his farm in 1864."
Although one would expect the writer of a "well researched book," who is an "expert on the feud," to cite the case, Alther does no such thing, simply because no such case was ever filed. The complete index of the cases filed with either a Hatfield or a McCoy as the moving party in Pike Circuit Court for the period can be seen at: http://blueridgecountry.com/blogging/hatfields-mccoys-revisited-blog/hatfields-mccoys-revisited-week-3-tom-dotson/#ixzz36SA3IEQn
While several post-Civil war Pike County cases were suits for restitution for items stolen by marauding guerrilla bands during the war, no such suit ever involved any Hatfield vs any McCoy, much less Devil Anse and Randolph.
Alther compounds her offense by continuing on the next page with: ""Ranel McCoy and Devil Anse Hatfield filed several similar civil suits against each other in the years following." Again, she gives no citation, because no such cases were ever filed.
All of this was concocted by the writer to show a decades-long conflict between the two families, thus justifying her title, "Blood feud." It is categorically false, as anyone looking at the case index can plainly see.
This book is a story--and a pretty good one--but it is NOT the story of the Hatfields and the McCoys. It is fiction.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 29, 2013
The writing style was very basic, and I agree with others who have been critical of her narrative additions and "anecdotal" commentary. I also did not care for the biases she showed while discussing history. It wasn't that good, wait for it to drop ever further in price.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2013
This book was poorly written, and at times hard to follow. The constant back and forth of the characters was at times hard to follow. I agree with another reader that at page 147 the story ends the rest of is mainly filler.
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on May 22, 2012
Lisa Alther uses her exceptional writing skills to make this iconic feud come to vivid life on the pages of Blood Feud. If she had written the history books used in my classrooms, I would have become a history major. The combination of her careful research, sense of humor, and dedication to her craft make this book a delight to read. I highly recommend it.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on December 26, 2012
A little background about myself: I live in the Midwest, have no family connection to either Hatfields or McCoys, and am simply a history buff who is fascinated by the story of this feud. I bought "Blood Feud" assuming it would be an accessible yet academic retelling of the Hatfield/McCoy story.
While I will give credit to the book for providing a basic outline of the feud's characters and events, it is definitely not unbiased history. As other reviewers have noted, in the book's opening section, Alther describes her distant family connection to the McCoys. While I have no illusions that the Hatfields were blameless in the violence that encompassed the two families, the book is so heavily slanted toward the McCoys that the author's assertion that her book is an "impartial" examination of the feud is laughable.
Alther includes an extensive bibliography, but seems to have "picked and chosen" among information and works that would put the McCoys in a positive light (and the Hatfields in a negative one). To her credit, she includes a signficant number of quotes from works by both McCoy and Hatfield ancestors, but seems to regard the McCoy sources as more credible than the Hatfield sources. What boggled my mind was the fact that Alther initially describes a nonfiction work by Truda McCoy (a McCoy descendant) as "probably about as reliable as [a novel]," but then goes on to cite information from this work, including entire descriptions of events, as though it were fact.
My breaking point came when I reached chapter eight, in which Alther describes the Hatfields as "goons" whose doings were "harebrained," and "idotic." That very well may be the case, but no one can read passages like these and come away believing they are getting the "unbiased" look into the Hatfield/McCoy feud that the author promises. In fact, I would have been much more forgiving, and probably enjoyed the book more, had it been described accurately--as a McCoy descendant's not-entirely-unbiased commentary on the feud.
In a strange way, though, I can't entirely find fault with the book. I was so dismayed at the way it told the Hatfield/McCoy story that I've sought out other, more impartial, works to add to my reading list. Consequently, I've found some feud-related titles that I'm looking forward to reading--titles that I wouldn't have known about had I not read "Blood Feud."