THE KILLER ANGELS by Michael Shaara

Reviewed by Stephen Rittenberg, Brownstein Book Club ...take our poll!

(November 17, 2005) The Killer Angels In November our monthly book club celebrated its 30th anniversary with a discussion of Michael Shaara's, The Killer Angels. This historical civil war novel focuses on the Battle of Gettysburg. It was one of the few times in our 30 years that there was critical agreement: we all felt that the novel was superb. It tells the story of this bloody battle by sketching the character of some of the men who fought in it. The South is exemplified by Robert E. Lee, a charismatic leader whose tactical errors resulted in defeat. The North is represented by the largely forgotten Joshua Chamberlain whose improvisational daring was crucial to the Yankee victory.

Our discussion illuminated the differences and similarities in character between the men of the North and the South. The pace of the action never let up, and the writing was poetic and powerful. We felt that Shaara had a sure grasp of human psychology and we were left with a profound sense of the strengths and limitations of human nature. The discussion of the book led to a broader conversation about the nature of war and we wondered what would have occurred if our present day media had been reporting the vast carnage.

While our book group has read most of the great fictional classics, especially those 19th century works that focus on character and explore the depths of human nature, we felt this relatively contemporary novel (1974) ranks up there with the greats by Tolstoy, Balzac, Dostoevsky and Stendhal.

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