North and South (North and South, #1)

ISBN: 0451200810
ISBN 13: 9780451200815
By: John Jakes

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About this book

Part history, part novel, this book chronicles two great American dynasties over three generations. Though brought together in a friendship that neither jealousy nor violence could shatter, the Hazards and the Mains are torn apart by the storm of events that has divided the nation.

Reader's Thoughts

Tea Jovanović

Odlična knjiga o američkom građanskom ratu... Popularnosti knjige kod nas doprinela je i dobra serija snimljena po ovom romanu... Sećate se? S Patrikom Svejzijem... :)


I have a lot of issues with this book. It seriously annoyed me in many ways. The historical interpretation is just so disingenuous. It's as point for point conventionally bias as a school textbook. The history is all so one-dimensional. First I don't believe anywhere near that amount of people were opposed to slavery for moral reasons, with perhaps a few rare exceptions ,most Yankees were opposed to slavery for economic reasons, yet in the book tariffs are shown more as a secondary cause after moral objections of slavery. bulllllshitt. Who are you trying to fool Jakes? Definite glorifying the just as generally racist north. People were not the open and free minded back then, to the degree they're portrayed in this book, or things simply would have been different. Second, people are not that political. I'm a rather political person constantly frustrated by other's lack of care and interest in issues. If in this day age I have that problem, don't tell that in the 1850's every single person you meet on the street had a clear-cut, distinctive, strong political opinion. Unrealistic. The ideological psychology of the whole book was sickening to me. Any passionate, revolutionary temperament is vilified, while the protagonists never do a single thing; take a single action for anything they believe. They continue to support a system they believe is wrong, that's far more insane, then following you're heart and conviction. The whole mood and tone of this book was twistedly conservative. The only thing that really picked up the story for me was love-making/romance and even then is was good but not like the best I've ever read. The jealousy between the Main sisters’s was a little interesting. Honestly, was anybody else totally hoping that Billy would get killed by Forbes? Maybe I’m just macabre. Anyways that was a let down.All the stuff at west academy was pretty boring.Although the story was decently good but the lack of authentic history ruined it for me.

Amber Cooley

Loved this!!! Couldn't put it down and immediately picked up the next one. I love Jakes' style of writing- he is very knowledgable in American history, but doesn't add so much history and war strategy that you lose track of the characters and their story.


Granted, this is a work of historical fiction, but Jakes does an amazing job of integrating his fictional characters into a surprisingly insightful and accurate historical setting. This book explores many of the issues — beyond slavery that contributed to the Civil War. He explores how the entire economic history was forged around the slavery issue, for the both the North and the South. The South was economically dependent on the slaves who helped maintain the family plantations. But Jakes also points out how it wasn’t simply the South that rested on this morally appalling practice. The North, who’s economy was as intertwined with the South as that of its own industrial revolution, also struggled with how to solve what they found to be a highly destabilizing issue. For my full review, you can find it here:


The original publication of North and South was in the early 1980s, during an era of epic and sweeping novels by authors such as James Clavell, James Michener, and a collective clamor for this type of story. The popularity extended to the television mini-series, i.e., Roots, The Thorn Birds. In my humble opinion, the abandonment of this type of writing is a shame, a narrow minded view on the part of modern day publishers. There seems to be a belief that readers are only interested in the immediate gratification of a 50,000 word novel chopped into a 2-hour television movie with over thirty minutes of commercials. I think they are wrong.I read North and South shortly after the initial publication and loved it, as I do today. Not much I can contribute to other reviews, so will only say that although a fictional story about two families caught up in the war, North and South is an accurate portrayal of the emotions and fears that lead up to the conflict. It is not a history book, but few latitudes of creative license are taken, it is pretty authentic. This is the first book in the trilogy and ends with the secession of South Carolina and the firing on Ft. Sumter. The American Civil War begins.The audiobook is long, over thirty hours of listening. Released in 2012, read by Grover Gardner, a pleasant read albeit a distressing period of American history. Worth the credits, I look forward to the sequels.


In a sentence: not as good as Herman Wouk, but better than Ken Follet. To elaborate, in its favor North and South shares with Wouk’s War and Remembrance historical accuracy and intimacy of its characters, but suffers from a reliance on Follet-like Dick-Dastardly villains to create tension.In this first book of the trilogy, John Jakes makes significant effort to chronicle the period leading to the American Civil War. This is best done, as in any historical fiction, when he allows the history to speak for itself through the experience of its characters - slavery, the Mexican war, pre-civil war discontent. Jakes is less successful when he rattles off brief references to speech by American politician so-and-so of such-and-such – these tidbits are easy to breeze over, particularly because they often have no direct correlation with the characters.The protagonists are very well-rounded and develop drastically and realistically over the course of the novel. Jakes shows how complicated the issue of slavery was at the time through his main characters; is a Unionist who abhors slavery but would rather the freed slaves be sent to Liberia inherently any more "good" than a slave-owner who treats his slaves humanely?Unfortunately, to create tension Jakes relies on one-dimensional villains whose entire shtick is to antagonize the protagonists. There are four characters (two of whom are the respective evil sister of a protagonist's family) who utter thoughts to the effect “I swear to ruin the life of [hero] until the end of my days”. I actually laughed out loud when I came to “One day, she [Virgilia] vowed as she panted her way to the hilltop, she’d pay them. She’d pay them all”, because this kind of utterance had come so many times before (e.g. “From that moment onward Isabel hated the two of them [the lovely couple, the stars of the book] even more passionately than ever before.”What makes it unfortunate is that there are already plenty of sources of tension – slavery, abusive husbands, believable ignorance/prejudice, to name a few – and these are explored. Though infrequent, there are moments of sheer incredulity. For example, there is a ridiculous scene where a character recognizes that his competitor in a duel will try to kill him through any means, yet somehow manages to tell himself that the duel will be fair despite evidence to the contrary. Slaves are also bestowed with an unrealistic angelic streak, such as when one sacrifices himself for the suitor (who is barely knows) of a slave-owner (who has shown no particular warmness to the slave).Alas, do not think I did not enjoy North and South. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and have gone on straight into the sequel. It is quality, epic historical fiction. Audiobook (narrated by Grover Gardner) 5/5:Oddly, I’m always nervous about taking up Gardner – he lacks the incredible versatility in voice talent of my favorites. However, as always happens you notice at some point in the book that he gives sufficient differentiation that you can recognize characters, at least scene by scene, by voice after all. His fluency, as always, is spot-on.


** spoiler alert ** I first read North and South back in high school, when I was inspired to do so after watching the miniseries in my Civil War class. I came to love it just as much as the miniseries then, and I still do now. Reading it again after several years, though, has been amazing. I'm picking up a lot more of the underlying themes, and the conflict between the Mains and the Hazards and how it mirrored the conflict between the northern and southern states. John Jakes really isn't called the father of historical fiction for nothing.There are times that Jakes' characters amaze me. Virgilia's radicalism, for instance, is nothing short of brilliant. She's quite frightening at times over her feral hatred of slavery, the South, and Southerners. Summoning a mob to come and kill Orry when he visited George just before the full onset of the war was horrifying (and wonderfully portrayed by the actors in the miniseries, brought to life very well).Still, the characterizations aren't perfect. I never cared for the treatment of Clarissa Main in the book, having her retreat into her own little world and forgetting everything outside of it, including her own children. Jean Simmons' portrayal of Clarissa in the miniseries was much, much more compelling -- a gentile yet strong woman who saw her entire world destroyed, and yet was not herself destroyed by it.Overall, it's an amazing, thrilling story of the Antebellum years, featuring two families united in friendship and love, but finding themselves on opposite sides as the drums of war begin to beat...

Christine Blachford

I'm not sure what prompted me to read this one, considering it wasn't actually on my Big Read list. However, having worked through that list, I've been emboldened to read some of the more intimidating books, and this was one of those. I'm glad I did, too, because it was really good!Set against the backdrop of growing unrest between the north and south United States, it's a story of two sprawling families, their lives and loves, as well as how the slave trade gradually wound towards its demise. I must admit that in the second half of the book, I was starting to struggle with the vast cast of characters, and it would take me a second or two to remember who someone was. That was a particular problem because there are occasions where one character is left behind for a long while, and then we suddenly catch up with them quite a few chapters later.But that's not really a huge problem, and one mostly associated with my poor memory. It's a gripping story, I kept wanting to know what would happen with the families, whether characters would ever get together. I understand it's part of a trilogy, and whilst I might take a break for a bit, I definitely want to read further.

Lauren Schmidt

Overall, I feel that John Jakes painted a vivid image of Southern and Northern life in this book. Marvelous, just wonderful.I love Orry's character and I loved him even more when Patrick Swayze animated him in the TV Series. I also adored the theme of tragedy and love with the characters as the nation undergoes the same affair: the conflict of wholeness and disbandment. That theme depicts the state of the union in the characters and I think that is sheer brilliance.My only complaint is that the book was so jampacked with detail and information that it dragged on at moments, as in the rest of the series. Cooper and Bent were sometimes a bit boring to me. But, approved. :D


I hadn't read one of John Jakes's books in many years so when I found this book at a used book store, I thought why not give it a chance. I'm glad I did. It was a fantastic book and I can't wait to start the second book in the trilogy. One of the aspects of this book that surprised me the most was how much of the attitudes in the book could translate to today. Both Northerners and Southerners had drawn their "lines in the sand" and didn't want compromise at all. They were willing to go to war rather than let it seem as if they were giving in to the other side. Several times I looked at the date the book was written because it seemed as if Jakes was trying to draw parallels with today's political climate. Obviously, we're not discussing slavery today but many times in this book I felt like I could have changed Northerners and Southerners to liberals and conservatives and the thought processes and the inability to see the other sides opinions or the unwillingness to compromise was way too similar to today's Congress or the liberal/conservative radio and TV pundits.


I read this book for a challenge because one of my friends on good reads disliked it. Overall, I enjoyed it. It had interesting characters and an engaging story line. It all gives the reader an understanding of what circumstances were like in America, socially and politically, before the Civil War. I particularly liked the way the sections about the war with Mexico and circumstances at West Point juxtaposed with a biography I am reading about Ulysses S. Grant. However, there were certain things that really annoyed me. Most prominent of these is the use of revenge as a mechanism to move the plot along. I do not personally know a single individual who is as vengeful and spiteful, who can hold a grudge so well, as half the characters in this book do. I find it hard to believe that people could act on a grudge over minor issues after years and years of waiting, which happens repeatedly. Second, at the end of this book several characters make decisions that seem out of character for them, mainly it seems to set up more conflict in the next book.Third, and unsuprisingly, the book is clearly North-centric. The reason this is unsurprising is because history is written by the victors. I can't say that I disagree with the book being tilted towards a northern perspective, but I think the book might have another layer of interest if it included a convincing and likeable 100% pro-south character.But, as I said, I did enjoy reading it, and will likely read the sequels, so its worth the time.

Tom Duggan

I am a big John Jakes fan and he has written a masterful trilogy on the American Civil War. Any of John Jakes books are both educational and entertaining.

Jane Greensmith

Really enjoyed this and looking forward to Love and War, book 2 in the trilogy.I hate to think these great historical series from the 1980s are in danger of being forgotten. They're well-written, accurate historically, and interesting with a good mix of characters.

Sandy Vaughan

If you saw the movie, wipe it from your mind and then read this trilogy! All the characters are so real. You may not know what they are going to do but it sure makes sense when they do it. In the beginning you meet 2 young West Point cadets. These men and their families you will follow from before, during, and after the Civil War. And be glad you are getting them now. I tried not to read them until I had all three, I thought i had learned my lesson from the Kent Family Chronicles...but no! I had to start reading as soon as i got the 2nd book. And I ended up frustrated when I finished the 2nd vol. and the last was not out yet! I don't know if parents would allow it because of some of the sexual scenes but if I had a class of mature students, I would have it on the recommended reading list.Before you get started, you have to remember, West Point of today is not the West Point of the 1800s. You will read a lot of history but it goes down well with this, one of my favorite authors, John Jakes.

Norman Parker

John Jakes creates compelling characters weaving a captivating story, bringing history alive. He delivers exactly the book I wanted.I wanted a story to bring alive the time of the US civil war. I wanted to better understand the mindset of the people. John Jakes brings the right amount of human weakness and strength to characters, letting us into their motivations in realistic fashion. I learned the stubbornness of the Southerners and the self-righteousness of the Northerners. I learned attitudes of many in-between the two poles, like Southerners who were not rich enough to own slaves but were loyal to their state. I discovered abolitionists and militant abolitionists; people who wanted peace, and people who wanted war.This gives me new respect for creative people with creative solutions to thorny societal problems. I did not know that, Emerson I think it was, suggested the idea of paying the slave-owners to rid the country of slavery. Twenty-twenty hindsight shines light on ideas that would probably have worked; while imperfect they would have avoided bloodshed. I can respect an imperfect solution now, knowing the damages of the war.Also, Mr. Jakes refrained from preaching, something so valuable while tempting in such a subject as slavery. He respects the reader enough to allow them to make up their own mind, using their own ethics.

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