Official Review: For Virginia by Mark R. Brewer

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sarahmarlowe
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Official Review: For Virginia by Mark R. Brewer

Post by sarahmarlowe » 06 Jun 2019, 09:20

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "For Virginia" by Mark R. Brewer.]
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3 out of 4 stars
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For Virginia by Mark R. Brewer is a fascinating exploration of the times surrounding the United States Civil War, focusing on five sons of Virginia. One of them, Robert E. Lee, had no plan to lead any troops against the United States when secession loomed. However, he could not bring himself to take up arms against his home state of Virginia, and so he became a general for the Confederate States of America. As the author posits, how many of us would be able to attack our home states? This is not a political book. The author doesn't debate the causes of the Civil War. His focus is on the motivations and attitudes of this handful of men who found themselves having to decide their loyalties.

Brewer has written a gentle, almost reverential treatment of three of the sons, Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, and Jeb Stuart. These men were Southern-born soldiers serving with pride in the U.S. Army when war was declared. Brewer presents them as men of honor who had to make the excruciating decision to fight against their first country.

Conversely, the author's treatment of the last two primary characters is not gentle at all. Brewer doesn't hide the fervent bloodlust of Edmund Ruffin, a Virginia planter who is a study in fanatic conviction. From beginning to end, secession consumes him, causing him to make several incautious decisions. The fifth of these sons, John Wilkes Booth, wasn't actually from Virginia, or even from the South. However, his story is that of a self-centered racist bent on pushing his beliefs, using the South's secession as a rallying cry.

Brewer, a former history teacher with an evident love of research, uses a variety of both primary and secondary sources to weave a story focusing on these men as just that, men and not legends. The prose meshes smoothly with the historical quotes, and the book reads like a diary that collected the thoughts of all involved. Adding to the beauty of the book, his eloquent descriptions paint vivid pictures that pulled me into the story.
A few feet away, a creek trickled past, filling Stuart's ears with the tranquil sound of flowing water. In the background were the muffled voices of his army, broken here and there by the stamping and snorting of the horses. It was such a serene melody that Stuart soon drifted off to sleep. (page 58)
Brewer describes not only the thoughts of the major players but also the battles and situations around them. There is a great deal of information about the Union Army, but remember the book is called For Virginia, so most of the battles and incidents are seen primarily from the Confederate perspective.

Being able to look inside these men's minds through their letters and journals was a fantastic experience in voyeurism. I feel as though I understand them like I would well-rounded fictional characters. I especially enjoyed reading the correspondence between General Ulysses S. Grant and General Robert E. Lee. I was astounded by the respect that these two men held for each other, as well as their shared love of the United States of America.

Because of grammar and editing errors, I rate For Virginia 3 out of 4 stars. Most errors concerned commas and typos, and they should be easily fixed in another round of editing. I would suggest this book to readers interested in Virginia's role in the U.S. Civil War and to people who would like to learn about it. This book's blended format offers an easy way to do that, and the author includes a detailed bibliography divided into primary, secondary, and web sources. However, if you are not serious about learning the day-to-day events, thoughts, and interactions of these five Virginians, I would suggest you pass on this read, especially since it is more than 700 pages long.

******
For Virginia
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Post by Brendan Donaghy » 10 Jun 2019, 03:32

Sounds like an interesting book, even for those not from the US. I don't know much Stuart or Ruffin, but the other three would be familiar names to anyone with a basic knowledge of US history. I've just recently finished a biography of Lincoln, so I might well have a look at this one too. Many thanks for a very interesting review!

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Post by Nisha Ward » 10 Jun 2019, 04:02

Sounds like a good book for getting a different point of view on the Civil War from an academic perspective, though a bit too long for my tastes. Thanks though!
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Post by kandscreeley » 10 Jun 2019, 11:38

Most of us probably of these historical figures, but many of us wouldn't know what their motivations are. I'm curious in that aspect. It's too bad about the editing errors, but it still sounds like it's worth it. Thanks for the information.
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Post by unamilagra » 11 Jun 2019, 15:08

Wow, that is a long book. It sounds like an interesting look into the individual motivations of these men, as opposed to the politics of the Civil War as a whole. Thanks for a great, thorough review!

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Post by sarahmarlowe » 11 Jun 2019, 15:42

Brendan Donaghy wrote:
10 Jun 2019, 03:32
Sounds like an interesting book, even for those not from the US. I don't know much Stuart or Ruffin, but the other three would be familiar names to anyone with a basic knowledge of US history. I've just recently finished a biography of Lincoln, so I might well have a look at this one too. Many thanks for a very interesting review!
I highly recommend this to readers who want to know more about US history. I got a very good understanding of these men. You should try it! Thanks for leaving a comment!
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Post by sarahmarlowe » 11 Jun 2019, 15:44

Nisha Ward wrote:
10 Jun 2019, 04:02
Sounds like a good book for getting a different point of view on the Civil War from an academic perspective, though a bit too long for my tastes. Thanks though!
It is quite long, but that is because it is so detailed. I don't tackle a lot of books this length! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!
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Post by sarahmarlowe » 11 Jun 2019, 15:45

kandscreeley wrote:
10 Jun 2019, 11:38
Most of us probably of these historical figures, but many of us wouldn't know what their motivations are. I'm curious in that aspect. It's too bad about the editing errors, but it still sounds like it's worth it. Thanks for the information.
Yes, I would love to see this book re-edited. It is a fascinating read. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!
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Post by sarahmarlowe » 11 Jun 2019, 15:46

unamilagra wrote:
11 Jun 2019, 15:08
Wow, that is a long book. It sounds like an interesting look into the individual motivations of these men, as opposed to the politics of the Civil War as a whole. Thanks for a great, thorough review!
I very rarely choose books this long. But I'm glad I chose this one! Thanks for stopping by and for leaving a comment!
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Post by kdstrack » 11 Jun 2019, 16:59

This is a creative way to present historical characters. I love the author's perspective. Your review opens the reader's mind to the amount of new information available through the author's research. The book is a bit long but has so much to offer. Thanks for much for this amazing recommendation!

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Post by Letora » 13 Jun 2019, 15:27

History novels tend to have a hard time catching my attention. This one might be different though. Thank you for reviewing!
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Post by CyndiA1 » 13 Jun 2019, 16:06

This sounds like a really interesting book. My family is from Virginia, so that would make the book even more compelling. Thanks for the detailed review.

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Post by Miriam Molina » 13 Jun 2019, 21:14

That's a whole lot of book! The length intimidates me, but I find the premise interesting. It's good that both heroes and heels are depicted. I wonder what would have happened if the Union didn't win. Well, Virginia, they did! And that's that.

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Post by Kyoks » 14 Jun 2019, 02:18

The review gives an academic descriptive story about the characters in the book. Sounds like an interesting one to get to and read. Thanks though for the incredible review.

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Post by Mbrooks2518 » 14 Jun 2019, 03:16

This seems like a great book for history buffs, particularly those interested in the Civil War era. But that isn't me, so I'll be passing on this one. Thanks for the great review!

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