North and South

North and South, by John Jakes

While sitting in the airport on a 6 hour layover in route to South Carolina I found myself browsing through the Kindle Store in search of a “Southern” Historical Fiction novel.  The Civil War is always a ‘go to’ time period for me when looking for something educational and entertaining. After reading dozens of reviews and scanning many many pages I downloaded Shades of Gray, by Jessica James(read it, loved it, recommend it!) and North and South, by John Jakes. After reading the first review on the list I immediately recognized the book as being the story of Orry Maine (Patrick Swayze) and George Hazard (James Read) from the television miniseries.  My memories were immediately taken back to the middle school days when my two best friends and I ran home from school every day for 2 weeks so we could watch the saga of Orry and George. I remember LOVING the fierce competition between Brett and Ashton as well as the horrifying drama with Madaline Lamont. I have to chuckle, just a bit, when I think about my friends’ mom ‘editing’ the sex scenes and us girls being secretly annoyed that she didn’t think we were mature enough to watch it. Now, as a mother of 2 little girls, I realize I wouldn’t be letting my preteen daughters watch the lovey parts either!

As entertaining as the miniseries was to my young and impressionable mind the book was equally delightful to me as an adult. The hypocrisy and seriousness of the issues are made manifest in John Jakes’ story. The evil of Captain Bent, Justin Lamont, Virgilia Hazard, and Ashton Huntoon parallels the goodness of Billy, George, Orry, and Madeline. The forces which drove good men to fight for their rights are beautifully illustrated by Jakes while discussing the tense years leading up to the war. I enjoyed the planning process of the potentially successful ship building business between Cooper Maine and George Hazard; as well as the wild experiences of Charles Maine in Texas. Having recently visited some plantations in South Carolina and Georgia (including the location where this miniseries was filmed) I had a beautifully descript image of the Tabby foundation where Orry and Madeline secretly met.
Final estimation of the book: well worth reading; great combination of friendship, war, love, hate, politics, and history. I would say this would be a great read for the High School crowd except for the large handful of rather descriptive love scenes.
I am anxious to read Love and War & Heaven and Hell! I am also excited to watch the miniseries again.

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