North & South

ISBN: 0517195356
ISBN 13: 9780517195352
By: John Jakes

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Reader's Thoughts


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.

Amanda Beecroft

Learned a lot about the dynamics of the civil war reading these novels. Also love the TV mini-series adapted from them.

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.

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.


So, the first 150 pages of this took me FOREVER to read. I just couldn't get into it, couldn't remember who was who and just felt generally kind of overwhelmed at the idea of reading 800 more pages of this...All at once, it picked up for me and I read the last 650 pages in just a couple of days.This is the first book of a three book series. It is the story of two families that are BFF but live on opposite sides of the Mason-Dixion Line during Civil War times. This first book was everything leading up to the civil war, the second book is during, and the third book is after. I was really impressed with the writing, the attention to detail and accuracy, and the character development. Although there was a huge, sprawling cast of characters, you really got to know everyone really well. And what I was really impressed with was how no one was depicted as absolutely anything. These characters generally seemed like real, torn individuals during a crazy time in our history.I am really excited to get into the next books in this series.

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.

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.


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.

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 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.

Amanda Patterson

Epic civil war drama. One of the few American historical novels I enjoyed. I read it a long time ago but I remember the Hazzards and the Mains and their jealousies, desires and loves. I think I learnt more about the history of the era here than anywhere else.

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.

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

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.

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