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  • ISBN-13: 9780671573010
  • ISBN-10: 0671573012

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BookPage Reviews

Three fascinating and quite different novels set during and after the Civil War make outstanding audios. The Last Full Measure (Random House Audiobooks, $25.95, 6 hours, 0375403094), Jeff Shaara's concluding work in the trilogy that began with his father's classic, The Killer Angels, follows the War to its end through the eyes and thoughts and hopes of Robert E. Lee, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, and Ulysses S. Grant. Powerful, moving, and elegantly narrated by Stephen Lang.

In On the Occasion of My Last Afternoon (4.5 hours), Kaye Gibbons's most recent work, Emma Garnet tells her life story with the kind of compelling, low-key eloquence that rings true and resonates in your heart. Raised in privilege on a James River plantation, yet deeply aware of the injustice of slavery, she becomes the wife of a Boston-bred surgeon in Raleigh. There she lives through the horrors of the War as she helps her husband tend the mangled bodies of the young soldiers. As Emma Garnet grows older, she grows stronger, more emboldened to try to right the wrongs she sees around her. Gibbons has created a truly memorable woman, and Polly Holliday, who reads, has given her a memorable voice.

Jacob's Ladder: A Story of Virginia During the War (Audio Renaissance, $24.95, 6 hours, 1559275081) by Donald McCaig is an epic tale of the "shame and glory" of the Confederacy. There's a big cast of characters, white and black, master and slave, good and bad, honorable and despicable, their lives intertwined. McCaig's grasp of historical detail allows him to move with ease from the bloodied battlefields of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville to Richmond's elegant salons, from plantation slave quarters to Bahamian banquets. Performer Ira Claffey's wonderful range of accents, timbres, and cadences allows us to hear each character's unique personality.

The wave of patriotism, the fervor on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line, is no where better documented then in the actual words of men who left their homes to fight. Voices of the Civil War: Soldier Life, Letters Home and Journals of the War (Time Warner AudioBooks, $12, 90 minutes) lets you hear these young men who went to war without an inkling of what lay ahead, who fought, were injured and scarred by what they saw and endured. This full cast rendering captures the intensity, the range of feelings from anguish and despair to the laughter and joy of camaraderie and triumph.

Sukey Howard reports on spoken word audio each month.

BAM Customer Reviews