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Shelby Foote is a brilliant storyteller, and his history of the Civil War is a masterpiece. Other histories give you the view from a thousand feet; Foote shows you what it must have looked like to the birds in the trees. It's often said that he's biased toward the South, but I think that's an exaggeration. He may not be overly fond of Grant, but he lavishes praise on Abraham Lincoln. His "bias," such as it is, comes partly from the narrative device of trying to give equal time to Jefferson Davis, as if he were in the same league as Lincoln. (Sorry, Shelby, but Jeff was a pill and even you can't make him sympathetic.)
I like Grover Gardner's narration a lot. There is some variation in audio quality, as others have noted, but for the most part Gardner is clear and forceful, and the story unfolds almost effortlessly. I can listen to it for hours at a time without fatigue.
The only drawback to listening to this, rather than reading it, is the absence of maps. Foote's book is peppered with maps, large and small, strategically placed throughout the text, and they support the narrative descriptions with economy and precision. I was fortunate in having the book at hand and could follow the maps. Wikipedia also has a number of excellent Civil War maps that can be used for this purpose.
88 of 89 people found this review helpful
Yesterday I finished listening to the final volume of this series, and am left feeling somewhere between awe over the sheer value and magnitude of this amazing work and depression over what seems a bit like the loss of a dear friend.
In fact, I'm tempted to start the series over!
Listening to these books while making some independent study of what I've learned from them has been, without doubt, the most personally enriching project I've ever undertaken. My understanding of every aspect of these key years in American history is unlike any other -- including years I've personally experienced.
Given the intense level of detail consistently manifest in this book, I had to continually remind myself that Foote's wasn't actually there to personally document these events.
That said, I should point out that this series is not for everybody. Unless you're serious about really understanding *everything* that happened during the US Civil War, you'll probably grow bored, very quickly.
If, on the other hand, you value deep context and objective examination based on eye-witness accounts and the assessments of noted historians, you'll adore this series.
And then you'll probably buy the print version, like me.
Again, I cannot begin to heap enough praise on this work.
39 of 39 people found this review helpful
I have just completed the marathon quest of listening to all three volumes of Shelby Foote's masterpiece narrative of the American Civil War (Approx 139 Hours). Coming to this trilogy, I thought I possessed a basic knowledge of the events of those four years which tore an infant nation apart and set brother against brother; quite literally in many cases. The Civil War trilogy has served to royally demonstrate to me just how much I did not know about this fascinating and bloody four years of American history. If you are an amateur historian wishing to really understand the polotics, characters, battles and progression of the war, this is the book for you. It isn't however, a book which could reasonably used as an introduction to the subject. There are many more concise accounts which can be read to see if you get the taste for more, at which time Shelby Foote's epic will be waiting.
This will also probably be an ideal information source for serious gamers of Civil War battles as every skirmish and major conflict is included in detail.
11 of 11 people found this review helpful
These comments relate to all 3 volumes of this work.
It appears almost like a tragic epic novel capturing the unimagined scope of the conflict, the carnage and destruction, the fine detail of the principal characters, and a wealth of comtemporary comment whether it be from reporters, soldiers, wives, family members or politicians to give some perpective to the undoubted horror. It is a wonderful history and geography lesson and it is beautifully written. It covers the defining event in the development of the United States and the importance of that is done full justice here. It is no turgid recitation of facts but a wonderfully constructed, evenly balanced and finely tuned account of the tragedy upon tragedy which led the the strengthening of the Union and which put in place the foundations of the modern day power house democracy.
Grover Gardner does full justice to the text in his low key, faultless rendition.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
This narrative provides a wonderful overview of the first 18 months or so of the Civil War. It has greatly helped me but the various campaigns & battle into a better perspective.
Given it was written almost 60years ago the language is noticeable not of this era but that is to be expect. He seems to gloss over the horrors of war so if feels a little unreal but is the detailed overview I was wanting.
I think a great place to start for anyone interested in this incredibly turbulent time in U.S. History. I am now moving onto volume 2.