Review: North and South by John Jakes

Review: North and South by John JakesNorth and South by John Jakes
Series: North and South #1
Published by Open Road Media on 2012-07-10
Pages: 806
Goodreads | Buy on Amazon

The first volume of John Jakes’s acclaimed and sweeping saga about a friendship threatened by the divisions of the Civil WarIn the years leading up to the Civil War, one enduring friendship embodies the tensions of a nation. Orry Main from South Carolina and George Hazard from Pennsylvania forge a lasting bond while training at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Together they fight in the Mexican-American War, but their closeness is tested as their regional politics diverge. As the first rounds are fired at Fort Sumter, Orry and George find themselves on different sides of the coming struggle. In John Jakes’s unmatched style, North and South launches a trilogy that captures the fierce passions of a country at the precipice of disaster.This ebook features an illustrated biography of John Jakes including rare images from the author’s personal collection.

There are no words for my feelings about North and South. Maybe love. Maybe adore. In any case, fabulous. One of my undergraduate majors was in history (American history, to be specific). I’m studying early American literature now. All of this adds up to a serious love of anything pre-1900. AND if you’ve been following this blog for any period of time, you’ll have noticed that I review quite a bit of historical fiction … that’d be because it’s my favorite genre.

John Jakes crafts an intricate and masterful family saga centered in the years just before the Civil War. George Hazard from Pennsylvania and Orry Main from South Carolina meet at West Point in the years leading up to the war with Mexico. They become fast friends despite their opposing opinions regarding slavery. Their families become fast friends. The story takes us through three generations of these families interacting with each other through the political turmoil of the United States.

There’s almost constant tension because we know what’s going to happen. I’ve come across some criticism that the book is too slow and there’s too much politics. I wonder if there’s such a thing as too much politics when it comes to the Civil War? I don’t think so. It’s such a complicated time period. There is no one single reason that the Civil War began and this book highlights that. It addresses the major issues so well that I really learned some great things that even I never knew.

It’s such a tome … but again, if you’ve been reading for a while, you’ll notice that I gravitate toward tomes. I love details, I love history, I love family sagas. This book has it all for me. The characters are vivid. There’s love, betrayal, war, and conflict.

I almost hate trying to review books like these because so much happens. How can I possibly explain it all? I suppose that brings about what I think a review should do. You can read a synopsis of the book anywhere. What you can’t find is personal reactions to the book. I think that’s my job. All I can tell you is that this book was engaging and I couldn’t put it down.


© 2012 – 2016, Jessica Workman Holland. All rights reserved.

  • I was just thinking about this series — contemplating re-reading and re-watching! I love Orry. The concept behind the story (best friends on opposite sides) makes for a distinctive look at the war, and a gripping story… 🙂

    • Jessica

      I totally agree. I haven’t read book two or three, but I think those will be the next books I pick up at the library.

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  • This sounds awesome. i love history and like that it spans several generations. Awesome review!