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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 Ch 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.


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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 Ch 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.

30 review for Gods and Generals

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ron

    For those who may not know, Jeff Shaara is the son of Michael Shaara who wrote The Killer Angels. Without that great book, there would be no Gods and Generals, or the many other books Jeff has written since this first one. Let me first talk about The Killer Angels. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1975, it did not receive the public recognition it deserved until after Michael Shaara’s death at age 50. That’s sad to me, because it is such a good book. The recognition finally came when the movie Ge For those who may not know, Jeff Shaara is the son of Michael Shaara who wrote The Killer Angels. Without that great book, there would be no Gods and Generals, or the many other books Jeff has written since this first one. Let me first talk about The Killer Angels. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1975, it did not receive the public recognition it deserved until after Michael Shaara’s death at age 50. That’s sad to me, because it is such a good book. The recognition finally came when the movie Gettysburg, based on the book, was released in 1993. Shaara didn’t get to realize this, but his son did. I had just assumed it was Jeff’s idea to continue his dad’s work, creating the two books that would sandwich his dad’s novel. In actuality the idea for those two books came from the publishers. Jeff had never even attempted writing. This would be his first book. Well, I think writing is in the family genes. I have read that he doesn’t quite write with the prose that his dad did. It’s been too long since reading The Killer Angels for me to judge. I just know that the story he created here in Gods and Generals is very good. Gods and Generals is a “personalized historical novel”. Like The Killer Angels, it is a character driven story, wholly based on the detailed facts of our country’s Civil War. What’s so good about these books is the getting to know the soldiers. Each man struggled with fear, and hoped for the life on the other side of this war, knowing this certain day of battle may be their last. If you’ve ever watched Ken Burns’ The Civil War documentary, then you’ll know what I’m saying. It’s like seeing men and women from the past. Chamberlain was a school teacher who volunteered for war because believed in his country. Hancock was a brave leader hampered by the generals above his status. Jackson was a brilliant strategist, and devout Christian with a soft heart that I didn’t know about. Lee never wanted the war, did not believe in slavery, but like each man brought to war he would defend the state he called home. So, I didn’t love it like I did The Killer Angels, but I liked it very much. I liked going back to this pivotal period of time and our country’s fate. All wars suck. This war was so devastating to so many. It can’t be forgotten.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    I love how Jeff Shaara writes. It takes some getting used to, yes, but once you get used to it...Brilliant! Outstanding!!!!!! I especially love how he focuses on the army, barely touches the political side of the war-and when the political side is touched, it's mostly negative. I'd never thought to deeply about the Civil war until this school year. Now, with this book coming to top off my school year, I must say history is a whole lot more complicated then I thought. The story begins in 1858 (57?? I love how Jeff Shaara writes. It takes some getting used to, yes, but once you get used to it...Brilliant! Outstanding!!!!!! I especially love how he focuses on the army, barely touches the political side of the war-and when the political side is touched, it's mostly negative. I'd never thought to deeply about the Civil war until this school year. Now, with this book coming to top off my school year, I must say history is a whole lot more complicated then I thought. The story begins in 1858 (57??? not sure which) with some background information on the men the story focused on: Robert E. Lee, Winfeild Scott Hancock, Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, and Joshua Lauwrence Chamberlain. These four men and their experiences in the Civil War form the main story. I knew most of the battle's outcomes due to reading "Stonewall Jackson: a portrait of a soldier," right before reading "Gods and Generals." But all the same, the masterful way Shaara wove the story...It was amazing. Actually, though, the thing that fascinated me the most was the Generals of the North. A parade of men going through. President Lincoln really didn't have much luck at all choosing a commander. I lost track of how many generals had been in command and had to look it up. I think by the Battle of Chancellorsville, there'd been at least 4 different commanders. I wish highschools would teach history like this. Most of my friends hate social studies, but I ADORE history. Read this book! One of the most wonderful books on the main Civil War battles I've read in a long time.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Dragina

    Dislike. A complete and total dislike. The description was good. The characters were good. The story line was fine. Just. Don't. Like. It. That's all I have to say........... Dislike. A complete and total dislike. The description was good. The characters were good. The story line was fine. Just. Don't. Like. It. That's all I have to say...........

  4. 5 out of 5

    Glen

    A Civil War book, fictionalizing several different sectors of society. Set mostly in the time it seemed possible the South would actually win the war. Not bad, but I'm not entirely convinced of the historiosity. A Civil War book, fictionalizing several different sectors of society. Set mostly in the time it seemed possible the South would actually win the war. Not bad, but I'm not entirely convinced of the historiosity.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sotiris Karaiskos

    Seeking quality historical novels about the American Civil War, I came to this trilogy which, I see, is particularly popular. From the beginning, however, I was troubled by the order in which I should read them, if I should read them in chronological order, in the order they were written or based on their quality. Because I also read a historical book on the American Civil War I chose the chronological order and I think it was the best choice. In the first chronological book of the series we are Seeking quality historical novels about the American Civil War, I came to this trilogy which, I see, is particularly popular. From the beginning, however, I was troubled by the order in which I should read them, if I should read them in chronological order, in the order they were written or based on their quality. Because I also read a historical book on the American Civil War I chose the chronological order and I think it was the best choice. In the first chronological book of the series we are transported to the last few years before the start of the war and we continue until the spring of 1863, having followed closely all the fighting in the main theater of operations in Virginia. Expectantly the issue that dominates are these war conflicts and I can say that the author does really amazing work in this area. The way he describes the battles is very exciting and manages to put the reader in their hearts, making the reader to be next to the participants, knowing all the emotions caused by the intensity of the battle while at the same time the author gives the very important historical details for them, making us understand them better. Reading about these battles at the same time, I understand that this description is very accurate, which of course I highly appreciate. However, in fact, all of this is not particularly difficult for a writer, and there are certainly many books describing battles from each period of history in a satisfactory way. But what makes this book stand out is this deepening in the feelings of the protagonists, some of them having the greatest weight in deciding for what has been done. It is amazing how the writer animates these protagonists in front of our eyes, thus showing us the human dimension of this war. This gives us an insight into their motivations, the reasons for these decisions, their doubts and the thoughts about their loved ones. Thus, having on one hand the exact description of the historical events and the big and small battles and on the other hand the vivid description of the sentiments of the protagonists, the reader has a very intense and comprehensive experience for this historical period. So in the end I can only say that this is a very high-quality historical novel. Αναζητώντας ποιοτικά ιστορικά μυθιστορήματα για τον Αμερικανικό εμφύλιο πόλεμο έφτασα σε αυτήν την τριλογία που από ότι βλέπω είναι ιδιαίτερα δημοφιλής. Από την αρχή, όμως, με προβλημάτισε η σειρά με την οποία θα έπρεπε να τα διαβάσω, αν θα έπρεπε να τα διαβάσω με την χρονολογική σειρά, με τη σειρά που γράφτηκαν ή με βάση την ποιότητα τους. Επειδή παράλληλα διαβάζω και ένα ιστορικό βιβλίο για τον Αμερικανικό εμφύλιο πόλεμο επέλεξα τη χρονολογική σειρά και νομίζω ότι ήταν η καλύτερη επιλογή. Στο πρώτο χρονολογικά βιβλίο της σειράς μεταφερόμαστε στα τελευταία χρόνια πριν από την έναρξη του πολέμου και φτάνουμε μέχρι την άνοιξη του 1863, έχοντας παρακολουθήσει από κοντά όλες τις πολεμικές αναμετρήσεις στο κύριο θέατρο των επιχειρήσεων, στη Βιρτζίνια. Αναμενόμενα το θέμα που κυριαρχεί είναι αυτές πολεμικές συγκρούσεις και μπορώ να πω ότι ο συγγραφέας κάνει πραγματικά καταπληκτική δουλειά σε αυτόν τον τομέα. Ο τρόπος που περιγράφει τις μάχες είναι τρομερά συναρπαστικός και καταφέρει να βάζει τον αναγνώστη στην καρδιά τους, κάνοντας τον αναγνώστη να βρίσκεται δίπλα στους συμμετέχοντες, γνωρίζοντας όλα τα συναισθήματα που προκαλεί η ένταση της μάχης ενώ την ίδια ώρα ο συγγραφέας δίνει τις πολύ σημαντικές ιστορικές λεπτομέρειες για αυτές, κάνοντάς μας να τις κατανοήσουμε καλύτερα. Διαβάζοντας παράλληλα για αυτές τις μάχες καταλαβαίνω ότι αυτή η περιγραφή έχει πολύ μεγάλη ακρίβεια, κάτι που φυσικά εκτιμώ ιδιαίτερα. Φυσικά στην πραγματικότητα όλα αυτά δεν είναι κάτι το ιδιαίτερα δύσκολο για έναν συγγραφέα και σίγουρα υπάρχουν πολλά βιβλία που περιγράφουν μάχες από κάθε περίοδο της ιστορίας με έναν ικανοποιητικό τρόπο. Αυτό, όμως, που κάνει αυτό το βιβλίο να ξεχωρίζει είναι αυτή η εμβάθυνση που γίνεται στα συναισθήματα των πρωταγωνιστών, που κάποιοι από αυτούς είχαν το μεγαλύτερο βάρος των αποφάσεων για όλα όσα έγιναν. Είναι πολύ ωραίος ο τρόπος που ο συγγραφέας ζωντανεύει αυτούς τους πρωταγωνιστές μπροστά στα μάτια μας, δείχνοντάς μας έτσι την ανθρώπινη διάσταση αυτού του πολέμου. Έτσι μας δίνει μία εικόνα για τα κίνητρά τους, τους λόγους που πήραν αυτές τις αποφάσεις, τις αμφιβολίες τους αλλά και τις σκέψεις για τα αγαπημένα τους πρόσωπα. Έτσι, έχοντας από τη μία την ακριβή περιγραφή των ιστορικών γεγονότων και των μεγάλων και μικρών μαχών και από την άλλη τη ζωηρή περιγραφή των συναισθημάτων των πρωταγωνιστών, ο αναγνώστης έχει μία πολύ έντονη και ολοκληρωμένη εμπειρία για αυτή την ιστορική περίοδο. Οπότε στο τέλος δεν μπορώ παρά να πω ότι πρόκειται για ένα ιστορικό μυθιστόρημα πολύ υψηλής ποιότητας.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nadia Awadi

    I'm going to quote the words of Jason Mraz and say: " I won't give up on us God knows I'm tough enough We've got a lot to learn God knows we're worth it." Well it turns out I'm not tough enough and this book wasn't worth it. Oh, and I'm totally giving up on us. Rating: 2.75 stars This book is the story of 4 generals (or maybe more. I seriously don't know) and what they went through during the Civil war. Seems exciting enough. The problem is I don't read historical fiction but this book was s I'm going to quote the words of Jason Mraz and say: " I won't give up on us God knows I'm tough enough We've got a lot to learn God knows we're worth it." Well it turns out I'm not tough enough and this book wasn't worth it. Oh, and I'm totally giving up on us. Rating: 2.75 stars This book is the story of 4 generals (or maybe more. I seriously don't know) and what they went through during the Civil war. Seems exciting enough. The problem is I don't read historical fiction but this book was so cheap: I just couldn't help myself. This book was like a map and I'm horrible with directions. Also, I'm not American so I didn't know half of the places the author was talking about. Why 2.75 stars? The good: *The writing was pretty great. *I liked some of the characters and understood their decisions regarding which side they supported: North or South. *The character's stories, background and difference in faith was enjoyable to read about. The bad: *Description, description and did I mention the description? *I liked the characters but I didn't LIKE the characters. *War startegies and politics. So hard to understand. *Slow P..A...C....E If you like politics and historical fiction, you will really like this book. Maybe when I'm wiser and older, I will finish reading it and like it. Probably not: about being wiser and finishing the book

  7. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Hodge

    The first in the epic father/son Civil War trilogy (the next one is The Killer Angels by Jeff's father Michael Shaara, followed by Jeff's sequel The Last Full Measure). This was Jeff's first book, and it must have been intimidating writing a prequel to his father's book, which had won the Pulitzer prize and been made into the astonishingly good film, Gettysburg. But Jeff rose to the challenge admirably and delivered a book similar in tone to his father's and carefully maintaining the air of trage The first in the epic father/son Civil War trilogy (the next one is The Killer Angels by Jeff's father Michael Shaara, followed by Jeff's sequel The Last Full Measure). This was Jeff's first book, and it must have been intimidating writing a prequel to his father's book, which had won the Pulitzer prize and been made into the astonishingly good film, Gettysburg. But Jeff rose to the challenge admirably and delivered a book similar in tone to his father's and carefully maintaining the air of tragedy that his father achieved in The Killer Angels. For those who are new, Gods and Generals starts at the beginning of the American Civil War and follows four of the major commanders through the first three years of the war. What makes this trilogy so unique is its even-handedness to both sides of the battle, which makes the war itself something tragic. Highly recommended series. This was made into a film of the same name, which deviated quite differently from the book. If they'd stuck to the book, it would have been an amazing film, instead it became a fascinating but flawed look at the American Civil War. Read the book instead.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    This book could be considered the prequel to THE KILLER ANGELS (reviewed separately), written by Mr. Shaara’s father. This book takes a unique perspective leading up to the Civil War, introducing us to the notable historical figures in that confrontation. Mr. Shaara shares with the reader, through excellent characterization and dialogue why the Civil war was so important to these men. The author manages to bring to life the years leading up to the Civil War. Seemingly historically accurate, this This book could be considered the prequel to THE KILLER ANGELS (reviewed separately), written by Mr. Shaara’s father. This book takes a unique perspective leading up to the Civil War, introducing us to the notable historical figures in that confrontation. Mr. Shaara shares with the reader, through excellent characterization and dialogue why the Civil war was so important to these men. The author manages to bring to life the years leading up to the Civil War. Seemingly historically accurate, this book answered many of my questions about why this battle even happened. Obviously, the dialogue and innermost thoughts expressed by the “characters” in this book are speculation but the book did serve it’s purpose for me. It did answer any questions in my mind in a colorful, non-textbook way. Although, as mentioned, I generally shy away from “war” books, I do enjoy historical fiction and in my opinion, this was historical fiction at its best.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Gaga

    I like historical fiction and picked up this book for that reason. However, it seems less like fiction and more like military history. This book seemed to me to be endless descriptions of what every general on both sides was doing during the Civil War--and not the whole Civil War, but just until 1863. This is the first book by either of the Shaaras that I have read, and I won't read another. Obviously, I didn't know what I was getting into because I know he is very well regarded by many people. I like historical fiction and picked up this book for that reason. However, it seems less like fiction and more like military history. This book seemed to me to be endless descriptions of what every general on both sides was doing during the Civil War--and not the whole Civil War, but just until 1863. This is the first book by either of the Shaaras that I have read, and I won't read another. Obviously, I didn't know what I was getting into because I know he is very well regarded by many people.

  10. 5 out of 5

    David Eppenstein

    All of Shaara's books are excellent and he is an author whose books I collect. While his books are technically not histories the history is incredibly accurate and readable. All of Shaara's books are excellent and he is an author whose books I collect. While his books are technically not histories the history is incredibly accurate and readable.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rick Slane

    Focus is on a few officers from both sides before Gettysburg.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mom

    I really don't know what happened with Jeff Shaara from this book to his second attempt, The Last Full Measure, but I enjoyed this book more. There is still the rambling on, and the writing still has the same irritating problems, but not to the same extent as Measure. I still enjoy the historic events told in a comprehensible way; it fulfills my need to understand the order in which things happened. I must say, I could not read two pages where he goes on about the death of General Jackson, it is I really don't know what happened with Jeff Shaara from this book to his second attempt, The Last Full Measure, but I enjoyed this book more. There is still the rambling on, and the writing still has the same irritating problems, but not to the same extent as Measure. I still enjoy the historic events told in a comprehensible way; it fulfills my need to understand the order in which things happened. I must say, I could not read two pages where he goes on about the death of General Jackson, it is just too heart-wrenching. Even though I knew it was coming, I still was not able to read it. All in all, a much better read than his second novel.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    Corny dialogue, very stilted. This book and the series of three novels about the Civil War was highly recommended, so I was very disappointed.I couldn't even finish it. I remembered why I really dislike so many historical novels--they try too hard and sound like a low budget movie. Corny dialogue, very stilted. This book and the series of three novels about the Civil War was highly recommended, so I was very disappointed.I couldn't even finish it. I remembered why I really dislike so many historical novels--they try too hard and sound like a low budget movie.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Anthony

    One of the reasons I’ve been reading this trilogy – starting with The Killer Angels – is to really be able to wrap my head around this war. I’ve always known that slavery was the root cause, but I couldn’t understand why the entire south would fight so HARD…. Just to keep slaves?? I mean, I can see why the wealthy southerners wanted to hang on to their free labor... But there had to be more to it. Another book that I’ve read earlier in the year helped answer some of my questions: John Jake’s No One of the reasons I’ve been reading this trilogy – starting with The Killer Angels – is to really be able to wrap my head around this war. I’ve always known that slavery was the root cause, but I couldn’t understand why the entire south would fight so HARD…. Just to keep slaves?? I mean, I can see why the wealthy southerners wanted to hang on to their free labor... But there had to be more to it. Another book that I’ve read earlier in the year helped answer some of my questions: John Jake’s North and South, a fictional account of the reality of our country, the division of opinions and perspectives. Now, with Gods and Generals, I really get a first-hand view of the immediate events that led to (what should have been a minor scuffle) the greatest conflict in our nation’s history! Jeff Shaara allows you to see what happens after war has been declared – each side pick and choose their generals and their commanders, and introduces certain individuals who later become legendary war heroes. As the first two years of war rages on, you can see how many opportunities this war could have ended; it’s these commanders and politicians who make dumbass mistakes—or decisions based on ego, instead of logic—that causes suicide missions, senseless mass bloodshed and ultimately prolongs the war. I do like these Shaara books because they (father and son) narrate these events in story form. It’s definitely more up close and personal than your average war book or biography. He writes good dialogue, and places you inside the heads of these characters – such famous people as Robert E Lee and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. I’ve read a handful of Civil War material over the past year, and Gods and Generals ranks high. It was inspiring enough that I took a day trip into Gettysburg, PA over the weekend, and walked some of the famous battle sites. (I’ve always wanted to do the Ghosts of Gettysburg tour… but sometimes when you take pictures, you’ll see some orbs floating in the scenery. There’s a lots of stories of hauntings, so it depends on what you believe!)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Taryn

    I read The Killer Angels over a decade ago and finally read the "son-written prequel" in Gods and Generals. Better late than never, right? But, in my experience, sometimes those books you've "always meant to read" come to you at just the right time. This was one of those. Reading a book on the Civil War during an epidemic and divisive election year has been interesting. While I'm not comparing any of the things we're currently experiencing to the atrocity of slavery, the division, the confusion, I read The Killer Angels over a decade ago and finally read the "son-written prequel" in Gods and Generals. Better late than never, right? But, in my experience, sometimes those books you've "always meant to read" come to you at just the right time. This was one of those. Reading a book on the Civil War during an epidemic and divisive election year has been interesting. While I'm not comparing any of the things we're currently experiencing to the atrocity of slavery, the division, the confusion, the anger, the blind loyalties, decisions being made by politicians far removed from situations, the media outrage, is all vaguely similar. But back to the book. The thing I loved about The Killer Angels that is translated to this book is the storytelling. You get the perspectives of multiple characters. The author doesn't pass judgment on decisions, just tells the story as it unfolds. Is this a work of fiction? Yes. But the research shows on every page. The men, their thoughts and emotions, sympathies and beliefs all feel so very real. You'll learn more about the men who fought in the Civil War and feel the gravity of their decisions and actions so much deeper in this book than you will in a textbook stating facts and dates. And that's what I love about historical fiction. Instead of knowing about Stonewall Jackson's death, you feel the blow it was to his friends and family. Instead of reading about how the Federal Army retreated for another time because they were led by an incompetent man, you feel the agony of the generals and soldiers who were forced to retreat from a battle they were winning--at the cost of additional lives. If you like historical fiction that tells the story from multiple and conflicting angles, I highly recommend this one.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Michal

    When my history professor gave me a list of books to choose from to read for his Civil War class, I chose this one on impulse. I came into the novel with very little knowledge about the events recorded in the book, but Jeff Sharra brought it to life for me. All too often, the Southern soldiers are depicted as uneducated brutes who hated slaves. While I'm sure that was true of some, Sharra portrays the Southern Generals as fighting for their homeland, for their families, and as unwilling to turn When my history professor gave me a list of books to choose from to read for his Civil War class, I chose this one on impulse. I came into the novel with very little knowledge about the events recorded in the book, but Jeff Sharra brought it to life for me. All too often, the Southern soldiers are depicted as uneducated brutes who hated slaves. While I'm sure that was true of some, Sharra portrays the Southern Generals as fighting for their homeland, for their families, and as unwilling to turn their weapons against their own homes. Reading this book, regardless of the cause that the politicians chose on either side, I can easily believe that I myself would have made the same decisions as the Southern men did when they were deciding where their loyalties belonged. The men from the North were influenced by the same factors: they were defending the homes they loved. It was a war that ensnared good, thinking men, men who would never have caused the war themselves, to fight in some of the worst massacres in history. It was a little different for me to read a book that was solely focused on the male side of the story (I'm a girl). I rather enjoyed the change of pace, and found much to admire in the thought processes of both the Generals and the author. He helped me experience the fervor, the bravery, the immense frustration, and the overwhelming honor of the men of the Civil War.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Tango Dancer

    This book was given to me by a good friend, who was so sure i would enjoy as he had. Sadly, I felt it did not live up to my expectations of a good book on the American Civil War. Amongst the books many failings are: - * A complete lack of any explanation of the causes of the war, or why the main characters chose to fight for which side. Slavery is dismissed with one character saying "It's gods will your a slave" with no further discussion. One character actually states he's fighting because he bel This book was given to me by a good friend, who was so sure i would enjoy as he had. Sadly, I felt it did not live up to my expectations of a good book on the American Civil War. Amongst the books many failings are: - * A complete lack of any explanation of the causes of the war, or why the main characters chose to fight for which side. Slavery is dismissed with one character saying "It's gods will your a slave" with no further discussion. One character actually states he's fighting because he believes in the union but for the rest the talk is vaguely of duty with no explanation of what that duty is and to whom it is owed. * As you would expect of a book written from the viewpoint of the Generals the description is clinical and about troop movements. The actual carnage of one of the bloodiest wars in history is virtually forgotten. At one point the battle of Antietam, one of the bloodiest battles in US history is told from the viewpoint of someone held in reserve who saw none of the fighting! *The Union Generals are all incompetent with no thought given as to why at crucial moments McClennan and Burnside acted with such caution. By contrast all the Confederate leaders are lantern jawed men of dash and vigour, with a clear view of a battle and sustained by their faith in God. I would not recommend this book to anyone who wants some insight into the American Civil War.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Cam

    I have read some really great books in the past year or two(Memoirs of a Geisha, The Kite Runner, Seabiscuit)- and this book definitely joins the list. It was so well written and interesting. It's about the civil war- it's quite thick and I thought it might be boring, but it was a page turner. I felt so connected to all of the characters, and I found myself really conflicted on whether I wanted the Union or the confederates to win the war- the book presented the generals as real people, so it di I have read some really great books in the past year or two(Memoirs of a Geisha, The Kite Runner, Seabiscuit)- and this book definitely joins the list. It was so well written and interesting. It's about the civil war- it's quite thick and I thought it might be boring, but it was a page turner. I felt so connected to all of the characters, and I found myself really conflicted on whether I wanted the Union or the confederates to win the war- the book presented the generals as real people, so it did a good job of looking at both sides of the story. I like how it depicted the South and went past the issues of Slavery, and into the issues of men wanting to protect their homelands and families- and how hard it was for them to fight against other generals they knew and loved. My only complaint? It ended at the battle of Gettysburg, so now I need to find the next book! I guess this was a prequel to a book that his father wrote called, "Killer Angels." So, that's the next book on my wish list! One other small complaint, sometimes it was easy for me to mix the characters up and forget who was on the confederate side and who was fighting for the union- so I had to refresh my memory a few times (I don't know my history as well as I should!)

  19. 4 out of 5

    Timothy Riley

    This was a fairly lame book. I think it didn't require much more than Junior year of college level research. It was not very riveting. Without looking into it, I believe the author is pretty much a confederate apologist. He idolizes men like Lee, Jackson and Longstreet. His descriptions of them are glowing; they are the heroes while the union generals are buffoons and the union fighting men victims of inept leadership-that last part is fairly accurate. I know that a story like this should not ta This was a fairly lame book. I think it didn't require much more than Junior year of college level research. It was not very riveting. Without looking into it, I believe the author is pretty much a confederate apologist. He idolizes men like Lee, Jackson and Longstreet. His descriptions of them are glowing; they are the heroes while the union generals are buffoons and the union fighting men victims of inept leadership-that last part is fairly accurate. I know that a story like this should not take a political stance but it is difficult not to with such a polarizing chain of events. Lee is portrayed as burdened by his decision to join the southern cause because of how much he believes in the federal US government and system, yet doesn't seem to hesitate much in killing thousands of his countrymen. He popularizes the idea that the slave masters-of which group he is included-"took care" of their slaves like fathers to petulant, directionless sons. He fought to retain slavery in the south and his slaves in particular. If he was so good and righteous like this book demands us believe, then he wouldn't have lost the war and the God that he refers to throughout his "scenes" wouldn't have abandoned him and his cause. This book perpetuates civil war mythology.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    There is very little I can say about this book that hasn't already been said. It seems a rather polarizing read with people either really liking it or really hating it. Unfortunately for me I fall into the latter category. The book is just ok...considering the subject matter at hand it should have been great. By confining himself to copying his father's style, the book never flows, drama never builds, characters are never rounded out. Switching from one character's point of view to anothers can be There is very little I can say about this book that hasn't already been said. It seems a rather polarizing read with people either really liking it or really hating it. Unfortunately for me I fall into the latter category. The book is just ok...considering the subject matter at hand it should have been great. By confining himself to copying his father's style, the book never flows, drama never builds, characters are never rounded out. Switching from one character's point of view to anothers can be a great way of building suspense and developing a story (see GRRM's mastery of this craft), here though, the switching of perspective (which is probably the best way to tell this story) just doesn't work. I now find myself at a crossroads...The Killer Angels (by Michael) is at home on the shelf and will surely be read, but what of the last in the series (again by Jeff)...

  21. 5 out of 5

    Pat Camalliere

    Read this for the third time, as my book club selection. I still enjoyed it immensely and cried again when Stonewall Jackson died. I like how the Civil War is portrayed through the eyes of four commanders, two from the north and two from the south. Reading critically now as a published writer, it’s not without its faults. Point of view issues abound, some parts slow down for pages, the battle scenes are hard to follow, some of what is portrayed as fact appears contrived and overly emotional. The Read this for the third time, as my book club selection. I still enjoyed it immensely and cried again when Stonewall Jackson died. I like how the Civil War is portrayed through the eyes of four commanders, two from the north and two from the south. Reading critically now as a published writer, it’s not without its faults. Point of view issues abound, some parts slow down for pages, the battle scenes are hard to follow, some of what is portrayed as fact appears contrived and overly emotional. There is also a decided sympathetic slant toward the south, and I would have preferred less bias and more accuracy. And yet, all in all, it works and deserves the attention of any reader of Civil War history. A 5 star pick for me!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    The author's father was named Michael Shaara and wrote "The Killer Angels" which was a Pulitzer Prize winning novel that was made into the movie "Gettysburg". The son, Jeff Shaara, copied his father's unique writing style but did not do it justice. Admittedly, "The Killer Angels" is a historical fiction novel that covers 3 days while the son had to cover several years of the Civil War. This was not easy for that writing style. Still the book is an acceptable prequal to the "Killer Angels" if you The author's father was named Michael Shaara and wrote "The Killer Angels" which was a Pulitzer Prize winning novel that was made into the movie "Gettysburg". The son, Jeff Shaara, copied his father's unique writing style but did not do it justice. Admittedly, "The Killer Angels" is a historical fiction novel that covers 3 days while the son had to cover several years of the Civil War. This was not easy for that writing style. Still the book is an acceptable prequal to the "Killer Angels" if you enjoyed the characters and I have purchased but not yet read his sequal to "Killer Angels" and his novels on the Mexican-American War and the Revolutionary War.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Alejandro

    Jeff Shaara simply could not pull off what his father accomplished. I'm sure Mr. Shaara is a smart historian of sorts, but as a writer it just doesn't give the proper payload. Perhaps he simply tried to cram too much in the lead-up to the Battle at Gettysburg, unlike his father who concentrated all of his attention and efforts on just those three historic days? Either way, the writing is simply annoying (too many "..."s throughout), and the only thing interesting is the sprinkling of Jeff Shaara Jeff Shaara simply could not pull off what his father accomplished. I'm sure Mr. Shaara is a smart historian of sorts, but as a writer it just doesn't give the proper payload. Perhaps he simply tried to cram too much in the lead-up to the Battle at Gettysburg, unlike his father who concentrated all of his attention and efforts on just those three historic days? Either way, the writing is simply annoying (too many "..."s throughout), and the only thing interesting is the sprinkling of Jeff Shaara's father's lines within the "Gods and Generals". Apart from that, just stick to what's good - "The Killer Angels".

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Hughes

    This was interesting enough to finish, but I didn't get into it as much as I was hoping to. It was interesting to read about the lead-up to the Civil War from the perspectives of several pivotol leaders of both North and South. I read "The Killer Angels," which was written some years earlier by Jeff Shaara's father, in college and enjoyed that one a lot more. This was interesting enough to finish, but I didn't get into it as much as I was hoping to. It was interesting to read about the lead-up to the Civil War from the perspectives of several pivotol leaders of both North and South. I read "The Killer Angels," which was written some years earlier by Jeff Shaara's father, in college and enjoyed that one a lot more.

  25. 4 out of 5

    R.F. Gammon

    Meh. Didn't do much for me- Killer Angels is much better. Jeff also just doesn't have the voice his father did. And there's no Longstreet in this book :( But two stars because you know. Civil War buff and unashamed. :) Meh. Didn't do much for me- Killer Angels is much better. Jeff also just doesn't have the voice his father did. And there's no Longstreet in this book :( But two stars because you know. Civil War buff and unashamed. :)

  26. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    Not completely bad. But dissapointing compared to Killer Angels.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Evan Hays

    Well, I started with The Killer Angels a couple of summers ago and then went back to this one. These are a perfect summer read for me because I start teaching the CW at the beginning of the year to my 8th graders. For such a high standard as his father's book was, Jeff Shaara deserves an awful lot of credit for this book. He easily could have written something that was just a weak attempt at copying at what his father had done, but he really does live up to his father's legacy. I'd say this book Well, I started with The Killer Angels a couple of summers ago and then went back to this one. These are a perfect summer read for me because I start teaching the CW at the beginning of the year to my 8th graders. For such a high standard as his father's book was, Jeff Shaara deserves an awful lot of credit for this book. He easily could have written something that was just a weak attempt at copying at what his father had done, but he really does live up to his father's legacy. I'd say this book isn't as good, but that's mainly because he takes on a much bigger task in this book, and actually that's my main criticism is that the task was too much for one book. I wonder if he would say that now. I believe he has written further CW novels since about smaller periods of time or just one battle, and I am sure he sees the benefit of this. He takes on the buildup to the war, setting the background with the main characters before the war, the start of the war, the early battles of the war with some detail about the Battles of Williamsburg and second Manassas, and then goes into lots of detail about Antietam, but especially Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. I think all of those parts are stellar and very well done, except for the part about the early battles. The most glaring thing that I think deserves criticism is that he didn't get into the first Battle of Bull Run hardly at all. When Stonewall Jackson is supposed to be one of your main characters, and you don't do the battle in which he earns the nickname, something is off. And I bet he wanted to include this, but then the book would have been probably over 600 pages long, and at nearly 500 it was already very long. But even more than that, you probably can make the argument that his strongest character is Jackson, in large part because he was such uniquely strange and heroic figure, but there was a long stretch of the book in which he didn't have any chapters from his point of view. And I get why he had Chamberlain as one of his main characters because he is the main person through which we see the Battle of Fredericksburg, he isn't a general so we get to see a lower down officer's perspective, and then of course it is building up to his crucial role in The Killer Angels, but he didn't fight at Chancellorsville, and hardly did at Antietam. And he wasn't even in the army yet for the earlier battles. There were other characters, like, say, General Meade (just off the top of my head) who were involved more and might have presented a more complete view. At least he did General Hancock who does present a complete view from the northern side. He really gets character, and helps us get inside a character's head extremely well. He can describe setting very well, which is key for this book with all of the troop movements and high ground, etc. In the end, these books are so important for us to wrestle with the fact that in war, there can be heroes and villains on both sides, even if we clearly (and rightly) see one side as fighting for the right overall reason and one side fighting for the wrong overall reason. I would agree with General Grant, and I think Shaara would too, that it is possible to respect an opponent and the devotion with which he fought, even if you think his reason for fighting was horribly wrong. We also, of course, are reminded yet again that war is hell. It always is. Ask any war hero, and they will tell you so. In my own humble opinion, we must avoid war as much as we possibly ever can, but there are times where wars just have to be fought. I mean, could the Union have just said, "well, Confederacy, sure. You just go and start your own country and keep millions of souls in terrible bondage for unknown decades to come and attempt to spread chattel slavery to untold millions of acres in the American West, Caribbean, and Central and South America. That's better than fighting a war against you I guess because 600,000 men will be killed." I just don't think so.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Dylan Snell

    Personal Response: I enjoyed reading Gods and Generals by Jeff Shaara. I enjoyed reading this book because each chapter was told from a different point of view on the same event that took place. I also enjoyed reading this book because it was about the American Civil War, which I enjoy learning about. There was a movie made based on the book, and now I want to see the movie. The book does get long and boring in the beginning and middle sections, but when the major battles begin, the book gets v Personal Response: I enjoyed reading Gods and Generals by Jeff Shaara. I enjoyed reading this book because each chapter was told from a different point of view on the same event that took place. I also enjoyed reading this book because it was about the American Civil War, which I enjoy learning about. There was a movie made based on the book, and now I want to see the movie. The book does get long and boring in the beginning and middle sections, but when the major battles begin, the book gets very interesting. Plot Summary: The plot of the book starts before the Civil War begins. All of the characters are not very happy doing their jobs either in the Army or teaching. When the war begins, they join either the North or the South. Some friendships are strained because of the war, and some friendships begin. The characters are mostly high ranking in either the Confederate Army or the Federal Army. They end up fighting major battles like First and Second Manassas, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and finally Chancellorsville. It is at Chancellorsville were General Thomas Jackson is accidentally shot by one of his own men. He later dies, creating a void in the Confederate Army. At the end of the book, Robert E. Lee decides to invade the North as a last effort to turn the tide of the war. Characterization: The main characters are Robert E. Lee, Winfield Scott Hancock, Thomas Jackson, and Joshua Chamberlain. Lee is the commander of the Confederate Army, and is not very political. Hancock is a Brigadier General for the Federal Army. Jackson is a Brigadier General for the Confederate Army. He is killed by a Confederate soldier by accident at the Battle of Chancellorsville. Chamberlain has no military experience, but is given the rank of Colonel in the 20th Maine Infantry regiment when it is formed. Setting: This book takes place in late 1850’s to the end of the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863. This is important because the Civil War was happening at the time. The location is mostly around Virginia. Recommendation: I would recommend this book to both males and females in high school or older. Those who enjoy history or the Civil War would like this book. The text can be very complex at times, so middle school students would most likely get confused when reading this book. I rated this a four out of five stars.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    Good, but I didn't enjoy this one as much as his father's book, The Killer Angels. My guess is that if you read this one first, you will enjoy it more than I did, as I think The Killer Angels is far superior. One of the reasons is that Michael Shaara's book covers one battle, at Gettysburg. Michael is able to take field notes, letters, battle reports, and other accounts and more easily put those words into the mouths of the likes of Robert E. Lee, James Longstreet, Joshua Chamberlain, etc. Jeff t Good, but I didn't enjoy this one as much as his father's book, The Killer Angels. My guess is that if you read this one first, you will enjoy it more than I did, as I think The Killer Angels is far superior. One of the reasons is that Michael Shaara's book covers one battle, at Gettysburg. Michael is able to take field notes, letters, battle reports, and other accounts and more easily put those words into the mouths of the likes of Robert E. Lee, James Longstreet, Joshua Chamberlain, etc. Jeff tries to cover much more ground in terms of time and in terms of the personal relationships of the leaders, and so I think he makes up a lot more in terms of conversations and thoughts. This is a work of fiction, so he has every right to do so, but it came off as very manufactured to me. Gods and Generals follows the same men as does The Killer Angels, adding in Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, who was not alive for the battle of Gettysburg. It also covers the battles of Antietam, Fredricksburg, and Chancellorsville. As with most of the couple dozen Civil War books I've read, I am once again amazed that the North won, given the near total incompetence of the Northern generals. But Jeff Shaara shows that the others leaders of the Federal troops, people like Winfield Hancock and Darius Couch, were very frustrated with the strategies of their own leaders. They were hamstrung a bit by the orders they received from their superiors, but their fighting spirit is probably what helped turn the tide when given the chance. It just happened much later in the war than was necessary. In the meantime, Gods and Generals is a good retelling of the aforementioned battles and will provide lots of good information for students of the Civil War.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Earl Grey Tea

    Even though this is a work of historical fiction, this is the first book to get me excited to learn about the American Civil War. Most text I've read and documentaries I've watched about this time period feel dry and don't help me understand what it was like to live during that time period. Jeff Shaara brings the conflict between the North and South alive by following the plight of key leaders in both the Union and Confederate armed forces. What these military officers said and felt are a comple Even though this is a work of historical fiction, this is the first book to get me excited to learn about the American Civil War. Most text I've read and documentaries I've watched about this time period feel dry and don't help me understand what it was like to live during that time period. Jeff Shaara brings the conflict between the North and South alive by following the plight of key leaders in both the Union and Confederate armed forces. What these military officers said and felt are a complete work of the author's imagination, but they are based on what we know of the events, the men, and their decisions. I kept checking Wikipedia throughout the book and was pleasantly surprised to see what was written about actually happened. This style brings the war to life and makes the time period interesting and memorable. It was a shock to me to learn that Ambrose Burnside (my favorite Civil War general due to his facial hair) lacked the ability to lead an entire army and he knew this too. His actions and how the rank and file felt about his leadership was portrayed in a very human manner during the Battle of Fredericksburg. I am excited to finish this trilogy and read other history books about the Civil War. This humanization of the people who participated in the war makes everything memorable. I'm sure as I learn more I will start to find historical inaccuracies and other creative licenses took by Mr. Shaara. However, I have become fascinated with this time period now because of this author.

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