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186 of 199 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The American Civil War and the Brits, June 28, 2011
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This review is from: A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War (Hardcover)
Amanda Foreman's " World on Fire" twelve years in the making and over 900 pages long, is not for the faint-hearted. It is not "Gone with the Wind" or "War and Peace" as some reviewers have suggested. There are no page-turning romances and women are very minor characters. But for the hard-core history buff, "World on Fire" is in some ways better than these great classic novels. It's plot zigzags among 200 characters -- including farmers, soldiers, cartoonists, politicians and labor leaders. It is gritty, off-center, more alive and more disturbing than these broad ranging novels. Unsentimental and a take-no-prisoners, bracing writing style, "World on Fire" is a work of great richness and descriptive power, a complex treat for those with strong concentration powers who don't mind an often confusing and abruptly changing plot strewn with dozens and dozens of unknown characters.

Foreman's research is prodigious,forthright and robust. It includes eye-opening accounts of poorly planned advances by both Union and Confederate armies, equipment pieced together like childrens' toys, and as always in war stories, countless vignettes of scared, hard-charging soldiers who are ultimately blown apart because of bad officers and bad equipment.

The British part of this story has been, for the most part, untold and unmined. Britain's political elites make it their business to constantly upbraid Lincoln and his Secretary of State, William Henry Seward. Above all, despite loftier proclamations against slavery, they don't want their lucrative cotton business ruined with the South and its slave labor. Former Tory turned Liberal Party leader, William Gladstone's role is eyebrow-raising throughout, as is the bad public relations gambit of the Union army when a famous journalist is unceremoniously drummed out of covering the war by Northern interests, unhappy at his balanced, often provocative coverage. Foreman has commented that she was struck in the course of her research by the large number of Brits who sympathized with the Southern states.

This wonderful, rich history can't be beat in terms of sheer real-life drama, complex, vulnerable characters and a depressed, tortured Cabinet in Washington, D.C. trying to deal with a President who has just lost a son to typhoid fever and a thousand other heart-searing problems. "World on Fire" is certainly worth the hard work.
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Showing 1-10 of 21 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 30, 2011 7:15:05 AM PDT
MONTGOMERY says:
Anne,

A couple of weeks ago, I saw Dr. Foreman in a Q&A session about this book on CSPAN. Though not a Civil War buff, I was very impressed with her presentation, which brought out the dynamics of the British indirect/direct influence on the conflict.

Now I await receipt of the paperback edition of "A WORLD ON FIRE", courtesy of Amazon.co.uk. :) (Paperback fan that I am.)

EXCELLENT REVIEW.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 30, 2011 10:57:37 AM PDT
Your review was excellent, and because of it, I am going to purchase "A World On Fire" !

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 30, 2011 11:30:32 AM PDT
Dear W.

I'm really sorry that I missed her C-Span review. Thanksfor telling me about it. I was impressed by her scholarly fortitude and the fact that she didn't try to spin out any romances in the book to boost sales.

Best, Anne

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 30, 2011 12:11:52 PM PDT
Thanks so much! Hope you like the book. Best, Anne Colamosca

Posted on Jul 5, 2011 5:00:08 AM PDT
Lew Troop says:
On "Morning Joe" this morning Dr. Foreman charmed the hard bitten panelists, cheerfully proved she knew more about the Civil War than Pat Buchanan and probably sold a lot of books. I'd write more but I'm off to buy it. Thank you for you excellent review.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 5, 2011 10:35:26 AM PDT
I keep missing her on tv. Vogue did an interesting piece on her in May. She has five children, all under 9 years old. Thanks for the compliment. Best, Anne Colamosca

Posted on Jul 8, 2011 2:12:19 PM PDT
Pietr Hitzig says:
Dear Anne,

I found your review so much more useful than the NYT review that just came out. Definitely, a Kindle type of book; far easier to support on your belly a Kindle than a nearly 1000 page book. Looking forward to reading it tonight when I tuck into bed.

This is a marvelous review. Incidentally, I loved Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 8, 2011 5:53:06 PM PDT
Dear Pietr,

Hope you really have a great read tonightwhen you tuck in. Thanks, Anne

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 8, 2011 8:24:05 PM PDT
Pietr Hitzig says:
I am loving it but concerned that as the NYT implied it may be a little too much written for the English market.

Watched a few minutes of AF on Bill Maher. She lost me when she said a government job is not a real job. Couldn't stand any more Coulter late at night.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 9, 2011 6:46:44 AM PDT
I'm really surprised......didn't know about her political views......Anne
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