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1812: A Novel (1997)
Guest review from Charlie Herzog:
Finished 1812-- liked it, though the narrative was very choppy. Never got the sense he decided what the book was about, the war itself or the people in it. One of the reasons Killer Angels is so good is that it's clearly about the people, with the events as a backdrop, whereas Sharon Kay (excepting the Simon book) tends to let the events overshadow the personalities. Either approach is fine, but the choice between the two wasn't made in 1812. Another nit-- in his afterword, he said he had made up the newspaper chick-- why? She didn't add anything to the story.
I agree with your 1812 criticisms, with one caveat. He had more heavy lifting--the basic story of Gettysburg is well known but all any of us (even we History majors) knows about 1812 is burning the White House & Battle of New Orleans. So he actually had to explain what the hell was going on. One thing that I really like is his focus on two of my favorite underrated Americans: Winfield Scott & James Madison. I've got Dream West for you, if you've never read it. You'll like it better, it's very much about John C. & Jesse Fremont.
Agree w/ your 1812 caveat-- I knew/know very little about that war. But I thought he could've done more heavy lifting on the causes of the war, rather than less-- why spend time/pages inventing an affair for Winfield Scott with an imaginary newspapers when you could spend more time laying out the reasons behind the war, strategy in upstate NY, etc..? Don't think the affair added enough dimension to Scott's
Not sure if I read Dream West or not (you may have given it to me in the past), but 1812 was certainly good enough that I'd give it a try.
More responses followed:
However they were basically a series of misogynist diatribes so we'll edit them out.
-1812 Review by Robert C. Jones