North & South

ISBN: 0517195356
ISBN 13: 9780517195352
By: John Jakes

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Reader's Thoughts

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.

Katie Ann

John Jakes writes fascinating yet comfortable books. Comfortable in the sense that they are not difficult to read and follow but are still engaging and in depth. I especially enjoy how he reveals characters and his ability to show character development over a lifetime. This is a long book and there are many years accounted for. Keeping characters engaged and relevant in the story is an accomplishment. These read like real people, and the creation of such takes some masterful and sophisticated writing. There are just enough folks in this novel to give it some variety but not enough that a list of characters reference page is required. North and South has some gory moments. After all, there's a war in there and another on the way. I find Jakes can sometimes be too graphic but in a good way, particularly when he's describing something haunting. This story of two families, one northern and one southern, joined by a lifelong friendship between West Point grads at the coming of the Civil War is too good to miss. Each has reasons for taking a side and each has a story told by a masterful storyteller.


Much rougher and more realistic than the romantic, pro-southern GONE WITH THE WIND, the gold standard of Civil War books for more than a generation. Although this book, (NORTH AND SOUTH) was printed first in 1981, I never found my way inside its pages until now. I enjoyed it very much, especially this book #1 which spent 806 pages meticulously setting the stage for what brought our great nation to this awful point in time in which Americans killed their own. I look forward to the second installment, with excitement, and also a heavy heart, where the families I've grown to love within the pages of book #1; the northern Hazards and southern Mains, fight one another - best friend against best friend, on the battlefield. Who from these great families will be among the more than 600,000 killed?

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.


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.

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.

Amanda Beecroft

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

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.


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

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.

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.


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.

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


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.

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