Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Killer Angels...random thoughts

The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara.

Truth be told, I did not want to read this book. I made myself read it, because I wanted Annie to read it for homeschooling. Why was I so afraid of it? I think I feared it was going to be very dry, and full of talk of weapons and tactics and strategy. I honestly don't mind reading about war, but I get really bogged down when a book starts getting into all the minutia of a particular battle. I don't know squat about weapons, and my eyes tend to glaze over if book goes into too much detail on that front. But there most definitely are some unbelievably fabulous books with the theme of war, both fiction and non-fiction. And you know what...I discovered this is most definitely one of them! (By the way, had I realized before I started reading it, that this was the book that the movie Gettysburg was based on, I wouldn't have had any reservations at all. Love that movie!)

Anyway, it's not that this book doesn't mention weapons and tactics and strategy, but those things are not the focus of the book. Nor is the focus of the book the causes of the American Civil War. It's not that these things are ignored, they're simply not the backbone of this book. No, this book is about people. About the individuals, the officers involved in the Battle of Gettysburg.

Michael Shaara writes in a letter to the reader:

You may find it a different story from the one you learned in school. There have been many versions of that battle and that war. I have therefore avoided historical opinions and gone back primarily to the words of the men themselves, their letters and other documents.

And the story that emerged from his efforts is a powerful one. As I read, I wasn't judging the men as "right" or "wrong" as is so easy to do when you're reading about war. No, I was too busy admiring these men, for their bravery, for their loyalty, not necessarily to a cause but to the men who served beneath them, for their sheer and honest humanness. These were men being torn apart by this war. In some cases, men forced to fight against their dearest friends. Men knowing they must follow orders, despite knowing the disaster that lie ahead.

Highly recommend it.


If you have reviewed this book, feel free to leave a link in the comments and I'll add it here. Thanks.


Read for:


Book Awards II. (Pulitzer Prize 1975)


Joy said...

I'm adding this to my TBR list. Thanks, Debi!

Dawn said...

I love reading your reviews. You certainly bring an honest and open opinion to the things that you share with us. I never would have picked up a couple of books that I have if it had not been for your reviews.

take care,

Eva said...

I took a military history class my senior year of high school (me and seventeen boys, lol), and the teacher had us watch Gettysburg. I had been sick, so he leant it to me to watch at home, and I'm SO GLAD because it made me bawl like a baby through almost the entire thing, and that way the boys didn't see me.

On another note, Mom had me read Killer Angels when I was in middle school and it was super-good. He was working on a sequel when he died that his son finished-Gods and Generals-but my mom didn't enjoy it as much.

kreed said...

I read this one (at Aaron's urging)before we went to Gettysburg 7 years ago. I thought it was great - very readable for a war book...

Nymeth said...

Even though this one is a Pulitzer winner and I'm doing the Pulitzer Project, I wasn't all that interested in it until recently for all those reasons you pointed out. But yours is the second review that makes me really look forward to reading it. I normally love books that tell war stories from that human angle you described.

Trish said...

I'm glad you ended up liking this one and I'll definitely have to keep my eye open for it! I do like war books but also get really bogged down in the jargon and war details. I'm always asking hubby about what things are, which is a little frustrating. Thanks for the heads up!! I don't think I've seen Gettysburg, so I'll have to put it on our "to rent" list as I'm sure both of us would really enjoy it.

Stephanie said...

This book has never really been on my radar before. But it sounds really good. Sheesh. Looks like I need to add it to the list!!

I never did see the movie Gettysburg. Guess I'm missing out, huh??