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Gods and Generals: A Novel of the Civil War (Civil War Trilogy) Mass Market Paperback – April 29, 1998

412 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In a prequel of sorts to his father Michael Shaara's 1974 epic novel The Killer Angels, Jeff Shaara explores the lives of Generals Lee, Hancock, Jackson and Chamberlain as the pivotal Battle of Gettysburg approaches. Shaara captures the disillusionment of both Lee and Hancock early in their careers, Lee's conflict with loyalty, Jackson's overwhelming Christian ethic and Chamberlain's total lack of experience, while illustrating how each compensated for shortcomings and failures when put to the test. The perspectives of the four men, particularly concerning the battles at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, make vivid the realities of war. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Like father, like son? The publisher is aggressively linking Shaara's first novel with The Killer Angels, the bestselling, Pulitzer Prize-winning (1974) novel about the Battle of Gettysburg by his father, Michael Shaara (d. 1988). Indeed, the son's book is a prequel to the father's, following some of its central characters, generals all, from 1858 until 1863 and Gettysburg. The good news is that, while not matching his father's beautifully wrought prose, Shaara tells a tale impressive in its sweep, depth of character and historic verisimilitude. Generals Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and Winfield Scott Hancock are back fighting for the North, and Robert E. Lee for the South. The story is told from their points of view, along with that of Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. Each is a reluctant warrior who emerges as a gifted soldier possessed of a strong moral conscience in a time of bitter partisanship and hatred. Because it covers five eventful years, the narrative is sometimes overwhelmed by its wealth of dramatic material; the battles, though convincingly realized, tend to blur into one another. Yet, like his father, Shaara gets deeply into the minds of his protagonists, particularly Stonewall Jackson, who, though shy and deeply religious, proved to be a brutally efficient military leader. Like father, like son? Not quite, but the Shaara genes, it seems, are in fine shape. Major ad/promo; author tour. (July) FYI: Gods and Generals will debut in Gettysburg during the July 4th week, to tie in with the annual Civil War reenactment.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Civil War Trilogy (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1st Thus. edition (April 29, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345422473
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345422477
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.1 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (412 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #42,860 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jeff Shaara is the New York Times bestselling author of The Steel Wave, The Rising Tide, To the Last Man, The Glorious Cause, Rise to Rebellion, and Gone for Soldiers, as well as Gods and Generals and The Last Full Measure-two novels that complete the Civil War trilogy that began with his father's Pulitzer Prize--winning classic The Killer Angels. Shaara was born into a family of Italian immigrants in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He grew up in Tallahassee, Florida, and graduated from Florida State University. He lives in Gettysburg.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Simon Jackson on August 3, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
You may be aware or indeed unaware that Jeff Shaara, the author of `Gods and Generals' is the son of the late Michael Shaara who in turn is the author of `The Killer Angels' which is acknowledged as one of the best civil war novels written. `Gods and Generals' is very much a prequel to `Killer Angels', describing the war up until the battle of Gettysburg (the subject matter of `Killer Angels').
While `Killer Angels' is indeed a wonderful civil war novel I feel to continuously mention both books in the same sentence does each a dis-service. Jeff and Michael Shaara, although father and son, are different people and consequently different authors. Thus to review `Gods and Generals' from the shadow of `Killer Angels' is not something I wish to do here. Therefore this is a review of `Gods and Generals' as a stand-alone novel.
First time author Michael Shaara has written an excellent account of both the pre-war and early war years. The novel offers an insight into the lives and motivations of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson of the Confederacy and Winfield Scott Hancock and Joshua Chamberlain of the Union. Shaara uses the experiences of these men in a skilful manner to elaborate and expand on the politics and events that occurred during the years 1858 to 1863. In doing so he is able to bring these four into contact with many figures that played a role in the war; Longstreet, Davis, Hooker, Burnside and so on. The result is a believable and comprehensive account that enables the reader to stay closely involved with the decision-makers of the war. Shaara is also able to write convincingly of the internal beliefs and philosophies that motivated individuals to take up arms against their fellow Americans.
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53 of 56 people found the following review helpful By kone TOP 500 REVIEWER on July 27, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Since there have already been over 210 reviews of this book, I will not go into details of the book itself, but my impressions.

I did not know much about the details of the Civil War before reading this excellent book by Jeff Shaara. Shaara truly brings the details of the war and the people who fought it to vivid life, painting detailed visual pictures with his rich prose. This may be historical "fiction", but Shaara gets into the heads of his characters and gives the reader insights into the Civil War that could never be learned from a textbook. Shaara does this so well, letting the reader know what his main characters are thinking and feeling as they participate in history. Even though the book is 500 pages, it is still an absorbing read that holds one's interest to the very last page. You will not be disappointed in this book. Not only will you learn the details of the Civil War, but you will enjoy every minute doing it!

I am watching Ken Burn's DVD series on the Civil War as I read Shaara's book, and I find it to be a complementary souce to Shaara's "Gods and Generals"; Burn's series providing the framework, and Sharra filling in the personal details.

I look forward to reading the next two books in this series. If they are as good as this one, and I'm sure they will be, I will have many pleasent hours of reading and learning ahead.

If you are interested in the Civil War and want a place to start, I highly recommend "Gods and Generals".

Jim Konedog Koenig
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Wayne A. Smith VINE VOICE on May 22, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Jeff Shaara does a credible job mining his father's field: the novelization of civil war leaders critical to the Battle of Gettysburg.
His characters are well rounded in this prequal that covers the years before 1863. I particularly enjoyed his treatment of Gen. Hancock. The dialog is believable and his characters never seem out of character to those familiar with the historical accounts of the same men.
It's an interesting book that gets beyond the history of the early Civil War. It lets the reader feel that they are witness to a plausible behind the scenes treatment of men compelled and called upon to do terrible things in support of their vision of America.
I would rate this a notch below "The Killer Angles." That was such a superb book in my mind that the son's book still merits mention as a very enjoyable read.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Charles F. Hawkins on October 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
I purchased Jeff Shaara's "Gods and Generals" at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, a year before I cracked its spine. When I did, I was on my way to a military operational research symposium in England. I'm sorry I waited so long.
"Gods and Generals" is a slam-bang precursor to his father's "Killer Angels," and I for one am hard-pressed to say which I enjoyed more. True, the father and son have written historical novels -- but what history! What great stories!
For the first time readers are given an impression, a direct feel, for the personal, psychological and behavioral bent of the main characters in this drama of the American Civil War. I only wish that the son had addressed Buford in his work.
I've walked the battlefields of Fredericksburg and the Wilderness. Jeff Shaara brings them to life, and tells a compelling tale of the principle actors on those bloody stages.
The religious fervor Shaara imputes to the commanders, particularly Jackson and Lee, is a commentary on the war fervor of the South in general. How could one fight to dissolve the Union without God on one's side?
If you have read "Killer Angels" then you must read "Gods and Generals." If you have not, then read "Gods and Generals" first, then immediately go to the father's work.
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