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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Do national security concerns supersede guarantees of individual liberty? Does strict adherence to the principles of freedom prevent a free government from defending itself effectively? Does the minority have the right to dissolve a democracy? Was the Civil War inevitable, given the fundamental split over slavery, or was it brought on by a combination of well-meaning and greedy Northerners who wanted to dominate the South? Can a majority rule over a subjugated minority and remain a democracy? These are among the vital, timeless issues that Safire deftly grapples with in a prodigious, 1152-page work that is more history than fiction. That he succeeds in relaying the confusion, anguish and excitement of this critical period in American historythe 20 months from Lincoln's assumption of the presidency to the signing of his Emancipation Proclamationis a measure of his supple writing style and dedication to veracity. With its analysis of intricate legal, political and military issues, this is demanding fiction, but so assiduously documented that it will interest Civil War tyros and scholars as well as buffs. Safire censures Lincoln as a leader who ``as the war went on . . . grew more easy with the use of dictatorial power.'' He also emerges here as shrewd, manipulative, depressed, stubborn, determined to preserve the Union and majority rule at all costs, a ruthless president who conducted a purposely bloody war. His gradual turnabout from a policy of tolerating slavery where it existed to the bold emancipation of slaves in rebel states, as a strategy to sustain the fighting spirit of the North, is carefully chronicled. In a 130-page ``underbook,'' Safire separates fact from fiction and keenly judges various historical controversies: Was McClellan an overly cautious general, or was he acting according to his dovish Democratic political conscience? Safire vivifies the complexities and paradoxes of the era through such real-life characters as border-staters Anna Ella Carroll of Maryland, a well-connected pamphleteer, and John Breckinridge, a former vice-president and Kentucky senator turned Confederate general, whose family epitomized the fratricidal war. The Pulitzer Prizewinning New York Times columnist is also adept at depicting gripping battle scenes, the vicissitudes of politics and the fierce jockeying for supremacy among Lincoln's cabinet members, between the president and the military, the different branches of government and factions of the Republican party. The intimacies here are basically political; Safire contrives a few fictional romances, but they are sops to the genre, providing a prism through which to examine the characters or ``hatracks'' on which to hang information. Photos not seen by PW. Major ad/promo; BOMC main selection. (August 28)
Library Journal
The 20 months between Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus and his signing of the Emancipation Proclamation were perhaps the most crucial period in American history, a time when a lasting definition of American democracy was being forged by civil war. This enormous book is both an outstanding history of that critical time and a model historical novel. Over a hundred pages of notes testify to Safire's thorough research and present the carefully reasoned speculation justifying his imagining certain scenes. As a Civil War historian he is worthy of mention beside Bruce Catton or Shelby Foote. As a Civil War novelist, as the creator of a vividly compelling book, Safire is easily the equal of MacKinley Kantor, John Jakes, or Gore Vidal, and perhaps their superior. An impressive achievement, one of the very few truly significant Civil War novels. For most libraries. BOMC main selection. Charles Michaud, Turner Free Lib. , Randolph, Mass.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781433254079
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/1/2008
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged, 17 CDs
  • Pages: 17
  • Product dimensions: 6.80 (w) x 6.20 (h) x 2.00 (d)

Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    An Outstanding Read...

    Disagree vehemently with previous review. This book was very creatively written (the factual footnotes in the back of the book need to be reviewed for context after every chapter). Read a chapter, and then check the facts. Safire clearly states where he has interpreted, where he has identified documented facts, and where he has added fiction to help move the story forward.
    Regardless, the book is an outstanding read, with enough human interest to keep it from becoming another boring Civil War account. You can learn an enormous amount from the novel, if nothing else than feeling as if you were there.
    If you want specific facts about Libby versus Andersonville and who took officers versus enlisted - check an encyclopedia.
    "Freedom" is an outstanding read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2003

    This book is filled with mistakes

    This might be the worst Civil War novel ever written. Safire includes a long section of notes at the end of the hardcover version of this book to make it look like he did extensive research, but anybody who knows anything about the war could easily spot flaws on just about every page. He confuses generals with the similar names. For example, he refers to C.F. Smith as Baldy Smith, but Baldy Smith's real name was William and he was a totally different person. The funniest mistake is when he says that a Confederate soldier captured after Shiloh would be sent to Libby prison, which was as bad in the north as Andersonville in the south. There are a few problems with this statement. First, Libby was a prison in Richmond, Virginia and it held captured Union officers, so I don't know why they would send a Confederate private there. Second, even though Andersonville was a horrible place, it's not likely that this prisoner would compare any other prisons to it at this point in the war, since Andersonville didn't even exist at the time. If you want to read a good Civil War novel, try one of these: 1. The Killer Angels 2. Ride With the Devil 3. Shiloh 4. The Red Badge of Courage 5. Walk Like a Man 6. A Soldier's Book 7. The Black Flower 8. Enemy Women

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