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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Classic Novel of Gettysburg, May 27, 2006
This review is from: The Killer Angels: A Novel of the Civil War (Civil War Trilogy) (Hardcover)
Michael Shaara's "The Killer Angels" is well known to a couple of generations of American Army officers, for whom it has been required professional reading. It is also well known to many fans of the Civil War as the basis for the 1993 movie "Gettysburg." It may be, with Anton Myrer's "Once An Eagle", one of the best novels on the American way of war.

Sometimes fiction does a better job of explaining what happened than conventional history does. "The Killer Angels" may be proof of that truism. Shaara has suceeded in capturing the key events of the epic Battle of Gettysburg; he has also suceeded in humanizing some of the principal personalties. The reader can appreciate what Gettysburg must have been like for Confederate Commander Robert E. Lee and his stalwart Corps Commander James Longstreet, and for Union officers John Buford and Joshua Chamberlain. We see the unfolding battle through the eyes of these four individuals and a host of other leaders. Shaara was generally faithful to the historical record when he wrote in 1974; his story is fictional to the extent that we are privy to the unrecorded thoughts and feelings of the men around whom Shaara builds his narrative. We see these men as the human beings they were, not the semi-mythic historical personalties (or in some cases the forgotten men) they have become.

In a series of well-written vignettes, Shaara relates the story of the battle. In one, Union cavalry commander John Buford recognizes the key terrain at Gettysburg and holds it until the arrival of Union infantry. In another, Joshua Chamberlain defends the extreme left of the Union line in an action that will win him the Medal of Honor and enduring fame for the 20th Maine. Confederate General Lee struggles to reorient his army to fight an unexpected battle to which his absent cavalry commander did not alert him. In several vignettes, Confederate General Longstreet struggles against his military instincts as he carries out the orders of General Lee. Their efforts to make sense of the chaos of the battlefield, to lead their soldiers, make tough decisions and deal with their hopes and fears hold lessons for us in the present day. Shaara's prose is highly readable, authentic to the period, even page-turning.

This book is highly recommended to students of the Civil War and the military art. Readers without background in the Civil War and the Battle of Gettysburg may find the narrative somewhat challenging to follow.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 24, 2013 11:57:28 PM PDT
How does one reach DS Thurlow to ask for a review. I think he would enjoy my memoir. The Master:Love, Latitude, Longitude, & Laughter, which will be out as an indie ebook around Sept. 27, and as a print version sometime in September, because it's about an alcoholic master mariner. jansound@rockisland.com

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 25, 2013 12:20:08 PM PDT
If the book is being sold by Amazon and advertised for advance review through the Vine program, I can look for it. However, I will unavailable during the month of September.
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D. S. Thurlow
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Location: California

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