Mark (dukewhite) wrote in a_book_a_week,

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"The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara

I have been really bad about posting in this group, even though I've been good about reading a book a week. No wonder there are just two members. (I'm still the only one to post...)

So I finished The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. I had heard from a friend of mine who was a huge Civil War nut in high school that this was one of the greatest books ever, and so it had always been on my list to check out. I saw it cheap on a used book table on the street a few months ago and picked it up. Finally read it this week (and last, to be honest.) I don't know if I'd categorize it as one of the best books ever, but I can certainly see why it won the Pulitzer and why she thought it was so amazing. I have been really into the Civil War and the Old West recently, which is why I finally picked this one up to read.

For anyone unfamiliar with the book, it is a historical fiction novel recounting the events of the battle of Gettysburg in July 1963. Told from the point of view of several key players, such as Lee, Longstreet, Chamberlain and Buford, it gives a well rounded view of not only the historical progression of events but also the motivations of men on both sides. I loved that it was written from so many points of view, and that Shaara did not fall into the usual trap of painting one side as good and bad. Both sides seem justified in their motives and it is hard as a reader to side with either the Union or Confederate soldiers, but with all of them, as they all share a deep sense of humanity rarely seen in literature that I've read. The centering on certain individuals also simplified the events of the battle itself so that it was easier to follow and interesting. Too often I have been confused or bored silly by recountings of battles in any war, and The Killer Angels shows just the most important battles of the engagement while also showing the ones that are key to the arcs of the chosen characters. I got such a strong sense of the difficulty of fighting in that particular war, with friends and families divided, that I now have an even deeper fascination with the war and era.

I followed the book with a viewing of the movie that was based on it, and much prefer the book (as is most always the case, no?) So much of the internal monologue that made the book so poignant was missing and it seemed to move slower than the book did, which is rarely the case in film adaptations. Still, it was interesting to see the locations spoken of so descriptively in the book on screen, as well as the numbers of men involved. Worth a view, but watching the movie might take you as long as reading the book, so if you only have a limited amount of time, pick one or the other.

I hope to make more entries here in the future. Especially since I am five books away from actually averaging a book a week this year. So I should have a few more books under my belt here in the next week.

(x-posted in iheartbooks
Tags: books
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