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

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.


My mom recommended this book to me ages ago since it's one of her favourite books. I probably never would have picked this up, or even heard of it to be honest, if it wasn't for her, because I'm not a big American history buff, but I'm so so so glad I did. This is the first novel in a trilogy following the lives of two families, the Hazards and Mains, before, during and after the America Civil War. This book tells the story of Orry Main and George Hazard, two best friends, and their families in the years leading up to the war. It starts in 1842 and ends at the beginning of the war. This book reminded me why I love historical fiction so much. The writing was great and the setting was so clear. The atmosphere this book created was great. It almost felt like watching a movie (a period piece of course), and made me feel all warm inside whenever I picked it up. I just really like historical fiction, y'know.This book was pretty heavy on the history, obviously, but it wasn't at all tedious to read. There was just enough information for Ignorant Canadians like myself to understand what was going on (my knowledge of American history is limited to one hellish semester with a terrible teacher who didn't do any actual teaching, just making his students cry) which was nice. There is also lots of family drama and political drama (mainly over the issue of slavery) and romance. I thought there was a great balance of historical stuff and fun drama stuff which was awesome. I really loved this book. It surprised me, really. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who likes well written historical fiction, whether you're an American history buff or not.


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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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:

Marion Marchetto

Although this series has been available for quite some time, I have finally undertaken the reading of this epic story. When I saw that the first book had 883 pages I almost swooned. So much for a quick read! thought I. But I chipped away page by page and was soon finished. I must credit John Jakes with creating an historically accurate story so interesting, and characters so complex, that I simply had to keep reading. I was compelled to do so. The Hazards and the Mains have been part of my life since I saw the screen adaptation many years ago. Even reading this first book, I kept hearing Patrick Swayze's voice as Orry Main. If you love history, have a passing interest in the Civil War or the institution of slavery, this is a must-read!


Someone at work was about to take the North & South Trilogy to the library, but offered them to me instead. I took these three massive tomes, which I remembered dimly from the 1980s (along with the TV miniseries adaptation) with muted thanks. No, I'll never turn down a book, but I expected some poorly written, overblown mess -- something like what you'd get if VC Andrews decided to write a historical trilogy. I put it off for nearly a year, and then finally cracked open North and South, fully prepared to be underwhelmed.Wow. I'm now on the second volume, and would like to belatedly join the John Jakes Fan Club. Wow again. I've lived in the South since 1986, despite growing up as a full-blooded Yankee, going back to pre-Revolution days. And of course I read Gone With the Wind, so of course I kind of thought I knew about the Civil War. Wrong. It seems I'm only now starting to understand this not-so-distant history of my country. I strongly recommend this series of books to anyone who feels they need to do some catching up. John Jakes has painstakingly researched the subject and managed to personalize it through his characters. His writing is clear, very readable, detailed without being dense, and entertaining enough to keep you turning the pages. I also need to add that it's currently spring of 2012, and the political turmoil that fills the headlines today shows VERY LITTLE change from what Jakes depicts during the mid-1800s. It's sobering and more than a little scary.Not having finished all three books yet, I can't do proper justice to the series with a review at this point, but if there is to be any criticism, it would be a tendency to draw the villains a bit too floridly. Bent the Butcher and Ashton the scheming nympho have raised my skeptical eyebrows numerous times so far ... but they are, nonetheless, characters you "love to hate." Knowing full well that it's "only a story," I still want to find out just how much more havoc they have up their sleeves. I'm about 2/3 of the way through Love and War, the second book, and will probably not pause before picking up the final installment, Heaven and Hell. I may even get into The Kent Family Chronicles, John Jakes's earlier historical series. But regardless, this author has enriched my reading and learning life with North and South, and I'd strongly encourage any historically impaired readers to seek out these books post-haste.

John Harder

My girlfriend recommended this book to me, and I am appalled that her lily-white and pure hands ever held such a dirty book. There is plenty of stirring of loins and heaving of breasts in this bodice ripper. Jakes throws in a history lesson so you do not feel as guilty about a guilty pleasure. Might I add, I plan on reading the other two books in the trilogy. No one would ever accuse Jakes of writing literature, but this novel accomplishes its purpose. His primary goal is light entertainment surrounded by historical events. So as with all reasonably done historical fiction, you may learn something without realizing it. I am only giving this book 3 stars since it is not artistically written, but it isn’t supposed to be, so I don’t know if such a rating is fair; but I don’t want anyone to confuse this with Faulkner.Take this book into a closet with a flashlight. Enjoy it and don’t let any of your more professorial friends catch you with it.

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.


** 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...


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

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