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The Killer Angels: A Novel of the Civil War (Modern Library)

The Killer Angels: A Novel of the Civil War (Modern Library) - Michael Shaara Normally when I hear a book won a major literary prize I run screaming in the opposite direction, but the topic has always interested me and the way the author dealt with the subject had me turning the pages like a novel.Being an Aussie, the American Civil war was just something I was taught at school, it had no real relevance. Undoubtedly, US citizens have a totally different perspective from their much closer connection. So I understand if for some of you the book is overload of stuff you've been exposed to all your life.Killer Angels by Michael Shaara is not a new book, in fact it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction back in 1975. It's based on the Battle of Gettysburg and looks at the action through the eyes of the significant characters of the different stages of the short but bloody battle.In presenting history like this, the reader is very dependant on trusting the author to have done his research and is not cheating by switching a character's motivations or aims to fit the "story". In fact at times, I was imagining how Steven Spielberg would have filmed this. Would he have "killed off" certain characters just to make the drama more poignant?It did read more like a novel. I couldn't wait to find out whether both Chamberlain brothers survived or whether Lee would ever admit his tactics were wrong.If we can make the assumption that the author just "gives us the facts Ma'am", then after reading "Killer Angels" you definitely get a better insight not only into why one side lost and one side won, or why so many men were killed in senseless attacks, but it also tells you something about the stubbornness, courage and faith men can demonstrate.To me the whole scenario in which the battle was fought seemed more like two macho guys arm wrestling in a pub to see who would take the pretty girl home. But maybe that's the whole point. The battle was senseless in some ways.This wasn't for control of a strategic position or to capture a town and its produce, this was a war of attrition to see who could continue to field more men into the fight as carnage whittled away the numbers. Almost as if there was an underlying vote involved, but in this case, the winner was the one who could put the most bodies on the line.The characters of the men involved shine through and in an epilogue we find out what happened to them afterwards. Having got to know them from the excellent way Michael Shaara got inside their heads to explain why they acted the way they did, we can extrapolate out how the rest of their life would have gone from the few facts included.If more history was told like this, we'd all be clamoring to learn it at school.