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


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.

Brecht Denijs

What a great book. I was first introduced to this series in the form of a costume drama on tv which my grandparents liked to watch. I enjoyed it as well so I decided to give the first book a go. Again the old saying is proven true: the book is always better. Such a well built story against a great historical background, well written, great variety of characters and a great dealing of entertainment from history and philosophy to sex and violence. It is an intruiging portrayel of the USA right before the civil war featuring characters of all political pursuasion. It is remarkable how the author does not side with either North nor South but rather with the moderates and compromisers versus the extremists on BOTH sides. I felt the book has a lot of things to say that could be applied to even today's political situations and it was a fun read on top of that. A must read, in my opinion.


one of my all-time favourites, i simply adore this entire story and every character in it


** 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...

Beth Bedee

I first saw the ABC mini-series in the mid '80s. It's still one of my favorites today. Then, I read the book when I was 19. John Jakes has such a knack for bringing history to life. He interweaves fictional with historical characters so easily. You get such a sense of the turbulence in the years leading up to the Civil War. This book and the entire trilogy is what prompted me to become a History major. This was my second time reading the book, and I loved it even better that the first because I have more reading knowledge and appreciation. If you're looking to learn about the unrest in this country leading up to the Civil War and to explore the causes and regional views from all angles, look no further than this book. It also offers a great glimpse into the military life at Westpoint.But its not all history. There are romances and other plot lines. There are characters to both love and hate.It's a bear: 800 pages of ridiculously small font. But it's so worth it.


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.

Louise Jennings

This book is a combination of history and of character basing. It taught me a lot about the civil war but also was so enticing because of the story line. It is a well written book and a very enjoyable book. If you like to learn about history whilst reading this is an awesome book to you. I would and have recommended this book to my friends. In just excited to read the second part of this trilogy.

Christina Merrill

Fun historical novel about the (not so) United States in the run-up to the Civil War. I enjoyed the way the regional differences were highlighted. It's hard for us to understand in the days of air travel and instant communication how isolated and divided the different parts of the U.S. were from each other. The plot is entertaining and you glimpse life in the industrial North as well as the stereotypical Southern plantation. I only wish the characterization was as good as the plot. "Bad" characters seem to have no credible motivations for being bad other than an antagonist being needed for the plot. Bent's vendetta strains all credibility (and this only gets worse in the next books of the trilogy). I have a hard time believing a belle like Ashton would have been that free with her favors, in an era before reliable birth control. I did enjoy that Southerners are not portrayed as uniformly evil and Northerners are not saintly - there were good and bad folks on both sides of the Mason-Dixon. However, the evils of slavery are not whitewashed as in Gone with the Wind. A must read for those who like historical novels and the Civil War.


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:

Christine Ward

This book, the first in John Jakes' Civil War trilogy, is a saga of two families: the Hazards, who are ironworkers from Pennsylvania, and the Mains, rice planters from South Carolina. George Hazard and Orry Main meet at West Point in the years before the Mexican and Civil Wars, and their friendship brings their two families together, in good and bad ways.I first read this book as a fifth-grader and it retained my fascination for years thereafter. However, when I read it as an adult, I realize the book has lost quite a bit of its luster for me. The historical elements of this story are still interesting, but a lot of Jakes's storytelling now seems cliched, sometimes desperately so. This story also has a fair amount of a bodice-ripping element to it, but nothing over the top - just enough for some eye rolling, perhaps.However, it is a book that makes the pre-Civil War era very accessible, especially for those people who checked out of US History in high school. I started re-reading this book again to read it aloud, and I'm told the story is still enjoyable. It's just easier for me to see through the plot, and the author's techniques, given that I've read this book many, many times since I first took it up.

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.


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.


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.

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.

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... :)

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