I just finished reading a historical fiction selection that goes hand-in-hand with one of my goals this year, to read lots of Civil War literature in honor of the sesquicentennial of the War Between the States. This novel covered what Sherman's march through the South must have been like, and it was well worth the read.
About the Novel:
In 1864, Union general William Tecumseh Sherman marched his sixty thousand troops through Georgia to the sea, and then up into the Carolinas. The army fought off Confederate forces, demolished cities, and accumulated a borne-along population of freed blacks and white refugees until all that remained was the dangerous transient life of the dispossessed and the triumphant. In E. L. Doctorow’s hands the great march becomes a floating world, a nomadic consciousness, and an unforgettable reading experience with awesome relevance to our own times.
Famous American Jewish writer, Edgar Laurence Doctorow is the author of several critically acclaimed novels that blend history and social criticism. Although he had written books for years, it was not until the publication of The Book of Daniel in 1971 that he obtained acclaim. His next book, Ragtime, was a commercial and critical success. As of 2006, he held the Glucksman Chair in American Letters at New York University. Doctorow's personal papers are held by the Fales Library at NYU.
Doctorow was raised in the Bronx, New York, by parental folks of second-generation Russian Jewish descent. At the Bronx High School of Science, he excelled in art making. Doctorow was a voracious reader and continued his education at Kenyon College where he studied with John Crowe Ransom. After graduating with honors in 1952, he did graduate work at Columbia University before he was drafted into the army and assigned to Germany. He began his career as a reader at Columbia Pictures, moved on to become an editor for New American Library in the early 1960s and worked as chief editor at Dial Press from 1964 to 1969.
He delivered a commencement address critical of President George W. Bush at Hofstra University on May 23, 2004.
As I mentioned above, this novel is well worth the read. I stumbled across it while perusing the fiction section of my local library and I am glad that I found this one!
Told through many various perspectives of people who truly could have been found along Sherman's march through the South, this novel gives a wide variety of viewpoints and the author does a great job representing all perspectives. My only critique of that would be that it felt sometimes like there were too many perspectives and too much time between each one so that as a reader I would almost forget the person and their circumstance until reading more about them again. However, I do not think this detracts from the overall impact of the novel as it still is a very complete story.
The author's take on what was happening in the minds of men like General Sherman, Abraham Lincoln, and others is fascinating and I enjoyed reading from his vision. What happened during that year of 1864-1865 was a terrible time for the South but throughout the book you find sprinkled inspirations through the characters that lived there, you see hope for a new beginning.
I have now become a big fan of this author - I look forward to checking out more of his work and highly recommend him and this novel to anyone interested in historical fiction or literature about the Civil War.