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Jacob's Ladder: A Story Of Virginia During The War (2009)

Jacob's Ladder: A Story of Virginia During the War (2009)
3.77 of 5 Votes: 5
0393337103 (ISBN13: 9780393337105)
w. w. norton & company
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Jacob's Ladder: A Story Of Virginia D...
Jacob's Ladder: A Story Of Virginia During The War (2009)

About book: I really wanted to like this book, the cover compared it to Gone With the Wind and Cold Mountain, both of which I liked very much. But the characters were very bland, stereotypical and unlikable, the dialog was flat, and the interactions of the characters left a lot for you to guess at, sometimes they were just down right confusing, characters that were supposedly driven by great passion one moment, didn't care at all the next. They did things that made no sense, or were not in their established character and the author felt no need to explain why. He also tried to show the complex relationship between the slaves and the planters, how dependent and intertwined they each were with the other, but he failed to make it clear or put the needed emotion into it.Most of the descriptive writing was focused on the graphic, gory details of the war, the battles, the field hospitals, the living conditions of the southerners. I think the author wanted to paint a vivid picture of just how gruesome the Civil War really was but he needed to make you care about the characters first to do that well and he just didn't.

While I'm not usually a big fan of reads about the Civil War, this book was different. The author is an excellent writer, tells a good yarn, and develops his characters as full-bodied people you'd want to know. Following the characters from Startford Plantation from the beginning to the end of the Civil War, the story opens with a young girl who is interviewing people who can tell their story from thier own perspective before history (first-hand) is lost to a generation who have passed. The young girl is working for the Works Progress Association (WPA), and not really enthused with his position; this all changes, as the story of Midge unfolds from slave to wealthy woman who passes for white in a time of great upheaval in our history. I highly recommend this book.
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This is a story of the years during which the Civil War was fought. It is not just a story of the war but also the stories of many non combatant Virginians who lived during the time. My attitude toward this work turned 180 degrees as I worked my way through it. My first thought was that it moved slowly, the author's style is slightly oblique and he wrote it in the vernacular of the time. It is not an easy read nor is it a feel good story but it is altogether worthwhile. If you decide to give it a try I advise you to not skip the "Acknowledgments" section at the end.
Reviews I read of this compared it to Gone with the Wind and Cold Mountain, and whilst I wouldn't rate it as highly as either of those, I did thoroughly enjoy it. I would have liked the story to continue beyond the end of the war; I would have liked more of a bridge between the story during the war and Midge/Maggie/Margeurite in the 30s, but I can understand why the novel just pertained to the war years. I loved all the characters - Jesse and Midge, Duncan and Sallie, Uther and Opal - and genuinely cared about them. So yes, a good book, wonderfully researched and fantastically detailed, but not a great book, I wouldn't say.
This story gave me an appreciation for the civil war. I was amazed and disturbed by how many men willingly became soldiers and how many died. I thought it was very sad that so many could be so brave and that their cause was not truly realized for another hundred years. As for the specific characters in this story, I liked a few but didn't feel attached to any of them or their plights. It would have been nice if the author didn't bounce around so much or have so many main characters. He didn't get into a lot of depth with any of them.
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