Friday, July 30, 2010

The Killer Angels - Winner, Novel, 1975

The Killer Angels
By: Michael Shaara
McKay, 1974

I'm not sure if I have mentioned that I decided to start reading the Pulitzer winners by subject instead of in order by year.  I found that I was reading on all these random subjects and not being able to tie things together.  So, the subject of the moment is the Civil War.  I recently finished Toni Morrison's Beloved (winner, 1988) and Michael Shaara's The Killer Angels (winner, 1974) and am currently in the middle of a massive, 4-volume biography of Robert E. Lee by Douglas Freeman (winner, 1935).  I think this will help me as I read through the Pulitzer winners to also gain a comprehensive knowledge about certain subjects.

The Killer AngelsMichael Shaara's The Killer Angels, on which the 1993 movie Gettysburg was based, is a historical novel that gives the story of the Battle of Gettysburg through the perspectives of several different individuals on both sides of the war.  I was afraid that I would have trouble following the story as I have trouble envisioning war maneuvers in my mind and keeping track of who is fighting for which side.  I was listening to the audio version of the book, so when, in the beginning, the key players for each side were listed, I wrote them down so I could keep track.  This helped me immensely.  I found that even though I did not always follow exactly what was happening in a battle, Shaara's writing made clear which events were good and bad for each side. 

The thing I enjoyed most about this book was the detail provided about the lives of each of the individuals whose perspectives Shaara used to tell the story.  He showed their human sides and truly made me care about people on both sides of the battle.  I especially enjoyed the depiction of Lee, which I felt fit perfectly with the description I am reading in Freeman's biography from 1934.  The Killer Angels is a useful read for anyone interested in understanding the complexities of the Civil War as many of these men had fought together in the United States military before the war and cared about each other. 

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