Review: The Killer Angels, Michael Shaara

Rating: 4 out of 5

Who doesn’t know of Gettysburg, of Lee, of Pickett? I don’t think many would be able to name the Union people present, but the Confederate names have rung down the ages. Mr Shaara’s book is a slow and deliberate pacing through the action at Gettysburg and both of the other people I mentioned above take part as well.

The reader can be easily transfixed in their helpless situation. As the events move on from the first day’s skirmishes into the well-known third day, it is easy to keep on — mentally — shouting for all of this fighting to stop and for the parties to disengage. Yet, it cannot be for these acts have already happened and Mr Shaara merely paints — and does not create though the richness of the language might make the reader think so — the scenery of Southern Pennsylvania in early July.

In those fatal minutes where Pickett takes off under Longstreet’s unspoken command to begin that kilometer-long march towards the enemy guns, I dare say few readers will not feel the waste and futility of war. One does not need too vivid an imagination to translate these words into images, making this a most evocative description.

With the above in mind, you know that the book and author have my recommendation. Yet, I have to add that the language can often be too dense. The detail is vivid, but the language is not careful but rather overpowering. As such, I did not necessarily find it an easy read though it was a gripping one.

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