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Gods and Generals This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   For years I had been disenchanted with American history.I loved the American Revolution with a passion for a time, but hated discussingthe 19th century. Specifically, I hated the Civil War. When my history teacherhanded me Gods and Generals by Jeff Shaara and said, "Read this," I wasskeptical. I was, however, pleasantly surprised. The book chronicles the CivilWar up to the events described in The Killer Angels (by Shaara's father, Michael)by jumping from one major player to another.

Gods and Generals followsthe Civil War closely and presents realistic and likeable characters, although itgets off to a slow start. It is not even clear that the war had begun for 50pages and takes another 50 for things to really get exciting. Characterintroductions are rather dull, and describe in detail aspects only slightlyrelevant to the character with no relevance to the overall plot. After theintroductions, everyone decides where their loyalties lie, make their way to anarmy and then, at last, things begin to pick up. By the end of the book, I couldnot bring myself to put it down.

One aspect that definitely detracted frommy enjoyment of this book was Shaara's writing style. This is his first book, andhe attempts to be so flowery that it gets in the way of the actual story. If Itried, I could probably count on both hands the number of sentences withoutcommas in the first 100 pages. As the book progresses, though, the style seems totake a back seat to content - things begin to happen that actually interest thereader. This shift makes the book infinitely more readable.

GeneralRobert E. Lee, Winfield Scott Hancock and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain areinitially loyal to the country, but when Virginia votes to secede from the Union,Lee, a Virginia native, decides to go with his homeland and join the Confederacy.Hancock is stationed in San Francisco and must deal with local demonstrations anddiscussions of loyalties while deciding his own. Chamberlain, probably myfavorite character, was a professor at Bowdoin College until he saw hordes ofstudents leaving to join the army and decides he wants to help. He struggles tofit in as the second in command of a division of the Federal Army. Shaara writesabout these characters so well that during the Battle of Williamsburg Idesperately wanted Hancock to win, while during the Second Battle of Manassas(Bull Run) I wanted to cheer along with Lee when the Federal Army soldiers runfor their lives.

Despite his imperfect writing style, Shaara's lifelikecharacters and dialogue, combined with political upheaval, make Gods and Generalsan interesting and very entertaining book. The Civil War is portrayedrealistically and in a way I could relate to. Writing in a way that discards theviolin music from the background (see the PBS documentary on the Civil War),Shaara converted me from hating all things to do with the Civil War toappreciating what happened in this segment of our history.


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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