Review: Gone for Soldiers, Jeff Shaara

Rating: 4 out of 5

Having just given some thought to the Civil War trilogy by Jeff (and Michael) Shaara, I figured it would be a grand time to look at some of the individual novels as well. The Mexican-American War is considered in ‘Gone for Soldiers’ and I found the points of view here more intriguing than in the Civil War books, primarily because the reader got a more on-the-ground view of what was going on.

This came about as the main character — once again Robert E Lee — was not in a command position at this time even though the war enabled him to learn many valuable skills as well as advance by a few ranks as well. Winfield Scott, another one of the point-of-view characters, also comes through nicely and illustrates very well the very political nature of the American top command — especially in the interactions with his immediate subordinates.

Lastly, and perhaps the author succumbed to some American exceptionalism here, the character of Santa Anna is fascinating. The authors afterword also notes how amazing Santa Anna must have been to succeed in Mexico for such a long time, and yet in many places he is turned into a buffoon in the text. However, even this buffoonery piqued my interest in both the man and the country so perhaps this approach serves a purpose as well.

I would recommend this, perhaps more than the Civil War trilogy, as it is a relatively easy start and gradually draws the reader in. Jeff Shaara’s style is also more accessible than Michael Shaara’s as the full sense of the 19th century speech is not mimicked to the same degree.

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