- Audible Audio Edition
- Listening Length: 28 hours and 57 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Audible Studios
- Audible.com Release Date: February 27, 2013
- Whispersync for Voice: Ready
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00ANTUQWU
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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Heaven and Hell: Volume Three of the North and South Trilogy Audiobook – Unabridged
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Good Guys and Baddies
In his North-South Trilogy, covering the years before, during, and immediately America’s Civil War, John Jakes uses a familiar literary device: following the lives of two families, close friends although from opposite sides of the conflict. (His success with this series and his eight-volume “Kent Family Chronicles,” among others, helped boost the popularity of this family-history genre, which has been dubbed “clanbacks.”) He says he promised himself that this story would not be “Gettysburg again,” so there isn’t much depiction of the war’s major battles, only references to them having taken place. Characters do rub shoulders with real historic personalities, however, like Gen. Armstrong Custer, Sec. of War Edward Stanton, and others.
However, his many characters are similar to the point that it’s not easy to tell them apart. The “good women” are all Melanie Wilkes, with a little bit of Scarlet O’Hara’s spunk thrown in to deal with moments of crisis. The “good men” are thoughtful, prideful, quick to take offense, slow to recover from trauma, and ultimately open to new ideas and eventually end up on the right side of the war’s central issue: the opposition to slavery. The “baddies,” men and women alike, are without redemption, scheming, quick to take offense, egotistical, revengeful (to the point of dedicating their lives to “getting even” for a perceived slight), and totally on the wrong side of history, believing in the total superiority of the white race over the black race. The evil men, in particular, are invariably fat, sweaty, and loathsome.
The worst of these villains is totally delusional and deranged. He stalks the two families throughout the trilogy, vowing to take revenge on two brothers, one from each family, whose actions caused him to be expelled from West Point when the three were cadets in the 1840s. He has no redeeming qualities, although in Volume Three it is revealed that he was the product of incest and an extremely abusive childhood. This does him no good in the plot, however. Although he wreaks havoc on the families, he eventually meets his death twice, miraculously surviving the first but ending up on the end of a rope.
Jakes, who has a background in theater as well as literature, is a fan of melodrama. Without fail, whenever a hero or heroine is threatened with violence or death, a “good guy” arrives in the nick of time to the rescue. His also loves irony, killing off main characters when least expected.
The Main family legacy is carried on through cousin Charles who has fought in the Civil War and has lost the love of his life but gained a family nevertheless. However, because he needs to keep moving and to stay employed he signs on with a man who buys ponies from the Indians. In some of the saddest scenes of the trilogy, Charles will loose this friend at the hands of the Indians. This part of the story was so violent and so sad that I was crying at the end.
Charles will pick himself up and try again to make a life for himself by joining up with a band of men who are being led by General Custer to round up Indians and keep the men who are building railroads safe from the Indians. Again a truly sad and very violent part of the entire trilogy is one that I have still not stopped thinking about. Charles is on his last stand at this point and returns to his family and to the woman he loves.
All three books are just superb. The violence in all three of the books, but particularly the last one, can be upsetting. The violent scenes are not for the fainthearted. John Jakes attention to detail and his amazing ability to bring the past to life are really unequaled. I was interested to read at the end that he took certain liberties with General Custer's personality. I did not know that Custer was such an awful man. I am going to try and find out more about him after reading this book. One thing is for certain, John Jakes has a great antipathy for him!
Do yourself a favor. Look up these books at the library or purchase from any of the used book seller's here on Amazon and read them now. You are in for a real treat!