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.
To buy this novel, click here.