North & South

ISBN: 0517195356
ISBN 13: 9780517195352
By: John Jakes

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Reader's Thoughts


** 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.

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.

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

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.

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.


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.

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.


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.

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.


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

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.


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 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.

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!

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