Thoughts The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, Ballantine 1975/orig 1974, 355 pages. Winner of The Pulitzer Prize.
”This is a different kind of army. If you look at history you’ll see men fight for pay, or women, or some other kind of loot. They fight for land, or because a king makes them, or just because they like killing. But we’re here for something new. I don’t . . . this hasn’t happened much in the history of the world. We’re an army going out to set other men free.” (Chamberlain, p.30)
WHAT’s it ABOUT: In the author’s own words, in the preface To The Reader:
This is the story of the Battle of Gettysburg, told from the viewpoints of Robert E. Lee and James Longstreet and some of the other men who fought there.
So, it’s a fictionalized account of the imfamous Civil War battle, told from both sides of the line. I certainly am no expert on battles of the Civil War and have only a passing knowledge of the main players. But I love history. I have actually visited Gettysburg and only wish I had read this book before seeing that ground.
“Give them fifty years, and all that equality rot is gone. Here (the South) they have the same love of the land and of tradition, of the right form and the right breeding, in their horses, their women. Of course, slavery is embarrassing, but that, of course, will go. But the point is they do it all exactly as we do in Europe. And the North does not. THAT’s what the war is really about.” (Fremantle, British ‘tourist’, p. 165)
This is another book that had me wiki-ing all the characters – I had to find out if they lived or died! And I screwed it up – I *thought* I had searched for Col Chamberlain, the rhetoric professor from Maine, and saw that he died on the first day. All due to the ominous tone in this description at the very beginning:
“His younger brother Thomas becomes his aide. Thomas too has yearned to be a soldier. The wishes of both men are to be granted on the dark rear slope of a small rocky hill called Little Round Top.”
I immediately had to go to my iPad open google to find out WHAT HAPPENED?! - mind you, this was page xix – and somehow?? not sure what I did, but I must have googled John Reynolds name by mistake. Anyhoo…
Later, I was discussing this book – I am about half way through reading it at this point – with a coworker of my husband’s who was helping us move the boat to its winter storage location, when I told him, “I think I am in love with Chamberlain and I could just cry! I can’t believe he didn’t make it!” when Jerry says, “What? No, he lives. He survives.”
So I was all confused and had to google all these old dead (now) guys again.
“Once Chamrberlain had a speech memorized from Shakespeare and gave it proudly, the old man listening but not looking, and Chamberlain remembered it still: ”What a piece of work is man . . . in action how like an angel!” And the old man, grinning, had scratched his head and then said stiffly, “Well, boy, if he’s an angel, he’s sure a murderin’ angel.” And Chamberlain had gone on to school to make an oration on the subject: Man, the Killer Angel.” (p.119)
LOVED that the book had maps even though they were a bit small to read.
A big THANK YOU SHOUT OUT to Jason for helping me with army organization.
Sure, I would have enjoyed a bit more perspective from and respect for a woman’s point of view but I can leave that for another book.
RATING: Who am I to argue with the Pulitzer Committee AND General Schwartzkopf, who said, “The best and most realistic historical novel about war I have ever read.” FIVE SLICES of PIE. Cherry. Any guesses as to why cherry? ;)
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