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I certainly learned a lot from the narrative, and can recommend it as a source of great detail about the politics of the era and the effects of changing policies on freedmen, southern whites, and northern politicians. Many of the details are important to an understanding of racial tensions that continue into our own time.
The narrator has a pleasant voice and kept an appropriate tempo and range of expression. I found distracting his unorthodox pronunciation of hegemony, a word that comes up frequently in the text. There were other less frequent words that he also pronounced strangely.
This book probably had just a bit too much detail for me; the book seemed to drag on a bit. It is no doubt ideal for a historian or one researching the roots of American race relations.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
The roughly two decades following the Civil War is one of the most consequential but unexamined periods of American history. I'm certain there's a gripping narrative history of reconstruction to be told, but sadly Foner's book isn't it. Thorough, scholarly, almost magisterial, it's also curiously lifeless, and the narrator doesn't do the dry recounting of events any favors with his slow and ponderous delivery. (Pro-tip: speed it up to at least 1.25x, so he sounds like a normal person.).
It's interesting to contrast "Reconstruction" with "Savage Continent," which detailed the immediate post-second world war Europe. The former is thorough but colorless, while the latter book manages to capture the sweeping big picture within vivid firsthand anecdotes. Even the moments that should shock and appall the reader—the rise of the Klan, violent reprisals against freedmen, etc.—are rendered banal an lifeless by Foner.
I'm still glad I read it, but I wouldn't recommend "Reconstruction". Unfortunately, I don't know what book I would recommend in its place.
5 of 6 people found this review helpful