North and South by John Jakes

January 13, 2014 Civil War, Coming of Age, Historical Fiction 31

Holy Moly, Bookworms!

My friend Lauren from Filing Jointly demanded that I read North and South by John Jakes. She was all, “Katie, it’s like if The Pillars of the Earth was set during the Civil War.” And I was all, “Ooooooh, that sounds wonderful.” Technically, I finished this after midnight on New Year’s Eve, so I’m going to say it counts as my first official read of 2014.

north and southThis bad boy was chunkster-iffic. Weighing in at 812 pages, I was shocked to get through it in less than a week. Family scandal and treachery will do that to you… As well as vacation days. (I love you, vacation days!) North and South begins a trilogy of books that tell the epic tale of the Mains and the Hazards.

Orry Main and George Hazard meet as cadets at West Point in the 1840s. Though Orry hails from a slave-owning plantation in South Carolina and George’s family owns an iron company in Pennsylvania, the two strike a fast friendship. Their friendship isn’t without struggle though. Even prior to the outbreak of the American Civil War, tensions ran high between the North and the South. There was fiery rhetoric on both sides of the Mason/Dixon, and it was kind of scandalous for a Yankee and a Southron to be hanging out.

Orry and George graduate from West Point and go on fight in the Mexican-American war together. After their service they each return home to their respective families and continue their lives. As the years progress, the friendship endures, but political tensions rise. Plus, they’ve got these big crazy families and businesses to run. It’s all so intense and passionate!

I have a tiny complaint though. Elkanah Bent is our resident villain. He is super evil and has been deviling the Main and Hazard clans since Orry and George’s days at West Point. I don’t object to a villain, I mean, villains are necessary and interesting and wicked. What I found unnecessary was that Bent was the only overweight character in the entire book. If you’re read this blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m super sensitive to authors writing unsympathetic descriptions of obese people, and Bent’s obesity was used as another aspect of his evilness. That I could have lived without.

What I can’t live without? The rest of the doggone trilogy. Holy cats, you guys, I’m enthralled. Heck, I’ve had spirited conversations about Ashton Main (Orry’s sister) and the pantalettes she refuses to keep in place (if I were ever going to slut-shame a fictional character, it’d be Ashton Main)! Epic historical family sagas are where it’s at!

Is anybody else out there a sucker for a saga? Tell me your favorites! 

*If you decide to purchase North and South through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

31 Responses to “North and South by John Jakes”

  1. Nish

    Have you seen the mini-series? It was quite good. Patrick Swayze as Orry Main was super. I’ve been wanting to read the book ever since, but never really got to it.

    Your review has probably given me the kick in the pants that I need to start on them 🙂

    • Jan

      I’m glad you mentioned the mini-series because reading the review I was thinking ‘Wasn’t there a mini-series of this?’ but couldn’t remember who was in it! I’ve not read the book but I do like family sagas and scandal!

  2. Megan M.

    I love drama! (Fictional, anyway.) I also love the name Ashton on a girl! I haven’t read this, or Gone With the Wind, or Pillars of the Earth. I guess doorstopper historicals aren’t really my thing, haha! I love the band The Civil Wars, does that count? 😉

  3. Didi

    I like those kind of epic tales. Haven’t read this one but saw parts of the mini series. I did like The Power of One and Tandia. I’m looking forward to reading the Australian trilogy this year – The Potato Factory,Tommo and Hawk, and Solomon’s Song. North and South sounds really good and I’ve always heard people say that. Might have to put it on my future TBR. Enjoy!

  4. Christine

    Katie, one of my favorite sagas of all time is The Far Pavilions by M.M.Kaye. It is one of those sweeping epic romances, set in India during the colonial period, and is totally full of awesomeness. I grew up in the 1970’s, when epics were the THING (I read North & South when it was new). Other faves from that time are Shogun (James Clavell) and War and Remembrance (Herman Wouk).

    • Words For Worms

      Oh that sounds delightful! Speaking of 70s sweeping epics, The Thornbirds has been on my TBR list since my mom told me she tried to read it in high school and her aunt chastised her for bringing home smut. You know it’s gotta be good if the grown ups don’t want you reading it, you know?

  5. Andi (@estellasrevenge)

    “and the pantalettes she refuses to keep in place (if I were ever going to slut-shame a fictional character, it’d be Ashton Main)!”

    OMG! LOLOL! Ok, I do love a sweeping saga. Darn you, Katie-roo! When I bump off some of the other sagas on my stacks, this one goes on.

    • Words For Worms

      Haaaaa! Yay for sagas! And my new nickname. I rather like “Katie-Roo.” My parents used to call me “Katie-Boo” as a wee one. Still do, occasionally. My in-laws call me “Katie-Bug.” In high school I dubbed myself “Katie Belle” just because I liked the name Belle (and later I was SUPER STOKED that Katie Bell was on HP’s Quidditch team. Because that’s ME dangit!) Thank you for adding to my collection. Muahahahhaa!

  6. Jennine G.

    I remember my parents watching this on TV! I don’t remember anything about it except a scene with a train leaving? I loved Pillar of the Earth though!

    • Words For Worms

      Lots of trains in the book. I haven’t seen the miniseries, but I’m sorely tempted now that I know of its existence and the fact that a youthful Patrick Swayze stars.

  7. Sarah @ Sarah Says Read

    I think my dad recommended this to me a couple years ago and I was like “Oh yeah, maybe, someday…” ARE YOU SAYING MY DAD IS RIGHT?! Crazyness. I’ll keep an eye out for a copy.

    • Words For Worms

      Oh Rebecca, don’t even fret. If it’s not your thing, don’t read it. I’m all for expanding horizons, but if you think it’ll be a chore for you, pass on it. No sense in making reading less fun!

  8. Wayne

    Civil War sagas are interesting. I recently finished a non-fiction book about a writer who has a burning interest in Civil War Re-enactors so he joins a unit of them based in North Carolina and these guys by and large are hardcore. Everything must be completely authentic (no stuff from L.L. Bean please!) and hand stitched and mended. Most of the Civil War units spent much of their time marching and the battles were deadly indeed.

    • Words For Worms

      I’ve always been interested in getting inside the heads of Civil War Re-enactors. They are super hardcore! One of my friends’ dads is huge into Civil War stuff and she has pictures of herself donning union military duds as a teen. It’s fantastic!

  9. Ashley F

    Ahh I’m so glad you liked it! I read them YEARS ago. Mom had the hard covers from a 1970s book of the month kinda deal she had. His other series, The Kent Family one’s, are also EPIC. And it’s like 8 or 9 books or something.

  10. Emily

    Thanks for the recommendation! I loved Pillars of the Earth and just finished Gone With the Wind so I could dig some more Civil War era stories. Will definitely be checking this out!

    • Words For Worms

      Oh yes, if you liked those two you will love the pants off this book! (What is WRONG with me? I just made this book sound dirty, and it’s only dirty in very tiny doses!)

  11. Shannon @ River City Reading

    This is one I’ve always wanted to read because I’m a total family saga junkie. If you like this, you’d probably love The Son by Philipp Meyer (as long as you don’t mind a good dose of war violence).

    • Words For Worms

      Noted! I don’t mind some war violence, at least not in the written word. Seeing it on screen makes me a little squeamish- yet another reason books win!

  12. Melanie Fuller

    In 1985 there was a mini series about North and South. Book 1 and Book 2 were each 12 hours long. Patrick Swayze was Orry Main and James Read was George Hazard. It’s soooo good. I have the disc set and still watch it until this day. They leave out Cooper Main completely. Bent is a thin man in the mini series also. You should check it out:)

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