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#183 ~ Two Brothers: One North, One South

Cover of Two Brothers One North, One South

Two Brothers: One North, One South by David H. Jones

Walt Whitman has a calling, not only as a poet but as someone to do what he can to ease the pain of the injured and dying soldiers from the American Civil War.  Although a native of New York, Whitman does not let a soldier’s military affiliation prevent him from being of comfort to one who needs it.  It is in this capacity that he meets and learns the story of Private William Prentiss.  William Prentiss was the youngest son of a proud Marylander from Baltimore.  He held the distinction of being the only brother who fought for the South.  Clifton, his brother closest in age, fought for the North.  After William’s passing, Whitman has the opportunity to meet with the surviving Prentiss brothers and together they uncover the story of the Civil War, which tore the Prentiss family apart.

Two Brothers: One North, One South is much more focused on the battles and political shifts than other Civil War novels I’ve read in the past.  The remembrances of the battlefields and the political discussions and arguments, which were undoubtedly the result of thorough research, felt authentic and even authoritative.  I felt as though I was an insider at each of the Cary sister’s parties or meetings.  I also felt as if I was witnessing the long marches and grueling battles.  This provided the authenticity required to make the story work.  Because of the level of detail, this novel would easily satisfy those well versed in Civil War history.  I attended a seminar that was taught by a man who makes such reenactments his primary hobby.  While reading this book, I often thought about how perfect this novel would be for those who participate in Civil War reenactments.  I can just imagine them reading this book around the campfire and commiserating with the characters’ less than luxurious conditions while in the midst of a reenactment. I think they would especially get a kick out of scenes such as the one where William and a Union soldier are conversing with each other on the sly while they were each hunkered down behind their barricades.

I listened to this book on audio.  As much as I enjoyed learning about the Prentiss brothers and the Carey sisters, it was in spite of the narrator, Kirsten Beyer.  The way she read the dialog particularly didn’t work for me.  Some of the characters’ dialog, especially at the beginning while they were discussing the politics of the war, felt more like formal letter writing than natural speech between family, acquantences, or friends.  While this is not the fault of Ms. Beyer, her reading of this dialog made them feel even more than an arm’s distance away from me and from each other.  Her change of voice for the male characters especially didn’t work very well for me.  Her pacing and style did work better for me during the straight narration. Still, given that most of the characters were male and this story very much took place on the battlefields, I think that a male voice would have made a more natural fit for me.

While reading Two Brothers: One North, One South, I learned a great deal about how the American Civil War affected Maryland and its people. I also learned about the role that women like the “Cary Invicibles” played in Confederate history. Beforehand, I had never heard of sisters Hetty and Jennie Cary or their cousin Constance. I thought it was fascinating how they made the first Confederate battle flags and managed to deliver them to the troops. I was disappointed that there was not more about what happened to the “Cary Invicibles” after the war, but given the structure of this novel, there was no way to tell that story. David H. Jones brings to light the pain experienced by families torn apart by the politics surrounding this war without making the story feel cliched. Having Walt Whitman there to tell William’s story after his passing worked very well for me. While this isn’t my favorite Civil War novel, I left it feeling enriched in my country’s history.

+++++

A special thanks to Paula from Author Marketing Experts, Inc. for sending me a copy of this novel for review.

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To buy this novel, click here.

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12 Comments

  • At 2009.07.21 02:32, Violet said:

    I dont read a lot of war books but this one sounds really good.

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    • At 2009.07.21 08:23, Kathy said:

      For me, the narrator makes or breaks an audio book. I recently started listening to one that is poorly narrated and just haven’t been interested in going back to it.
      .-= Kathy´s last blog .. =-.

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      • At 2009.07.21 10:34, Anna said:

        I don’t know all that much about the Civil War, but as you know, war novels in general interest me. I’ll definitely check this one out at some point. Thanks for the review.
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        • At 2009.07.21 11:08, Amy Reads Good Books said:

          Whitman is an interesting hook. . .I don’t know if I’m a Civil War nut, but I am a Whitman nut. I’ll have to put this in my TBR pile.
          .-= Amy Reads Good Books´s last blog .. =-.

          • At 2009.07.21 11:39, Jo-Jo said:

            I read this one last month and it was such a tough read for me. But it was also very informative…I think I developed a love/hate relationship with this book.
            .-= Jo-Jo´s last blog .. =-.

            • At 2009.07.21 15:07, Terri said:

              Hi Jennifer, I just discovered your website today and had a great time reading some of your reviews. I have a home decor blog myself, but I am just getting back to reading. I was an avid reader up until a couple of years ago, but with a busy career, a new house, and lots of decorating to do (and decorating books to read), it seems like reading fell to the side.

              When I watched your aha! video, it really struck a chord with me because I have been feeling blue for a while now and reading is really helping to wake me back up again! I have joined a book club (mostly for the company!) and now I am reading regularly again, cramming it into the cracks in my life. Some days the only thing I look forward to is my book, but most days I am feeling better about life again.

              Looking forward to visiting your site a LOT in the months to come…

              Thanks for writing!

              Terri xo
              .-= Terri´s last blog .. =-.

              • At 2009.07.21 21:49, Jen - Devourer of Books said:

                I couldn’t stand this book, the stilted conversation made me give up after 45 pages. Maybe even a poor narrator would have been better than reading it myself.
                .-= Jen – Devourer of Books´s last blog .. =-.

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                • At 2009.07.21 22:14, softdrink said:

                  I had to take a military history class in college and it bored me to tears. Plus, I was in the class with a bunch of ROTC guys, and I felt so out of place. I tend to avoid war books.

                  That said, I did just buy 1776, and I’m going to try it this summer.

                  • At 2009.07.21 23:46, Jennifer said:

                    Anna and Amy, I would be interested to hear what you think. I read Jen’s review and I think I might have tossed it myself had I been reading it. I blamed a lot of that on the narrator. Once I got passed the dialog, which I really think must have been picked up from letters because it was always so terribly formal, I did enjoy the parts of the novel about the Cary Invicibles. The battle scenes are really good for someone like a reenactor or one of softdrink’s ROTC students. I would be interested in reading a novel about the Cary family itself.

                    • At 2009.07.22 00:06, Holly said:

                      I have a hard time listening to books on audio, it’s not my preferred medium. This one sounds good though, I will probably check it out. Hardcopy of course!
                      .-= Holly´s last blog .. =-.

                      • At 2009.07.22 10:55, Jaime said:

                        I have this in my (endless) pile to read! Hoping to get to it soon…
                        .-= Jaime´s last blog .. =-.

                        • At 2009.07.22 13:37, Wisteria said:

                          I don’t know if you are aware, but I love reading about the Civil War. Paula sent me this book also, and I am so late in reviewing it because I am taking a post grad course in Civil War history.

                          Anyway, I didn’t read your review YET which I’m sure is well done, but I promise to come back to it after I do my review. I don’t know if you liked it…but I hope it was good for you. Wisteria
                          .-= Wisteria´s last blog .. =-.

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