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Book Review: Two Brothers, One North, One South

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Jones, David H. Two Brothers, One North, One South. Encino, CA: Staghorn Press, 2008. 320pp, ISBN 13: 978-0-9796898-5-7, $24.95.

two-brothersIn his historical novel, David H. Jones tells the story of the the Prentiss brothers, William and Clifton, who fight on opposite sides of the American Civil War. The primary narrator is era poet, Walt Whitman, who befriends a dying William in the military hospital at the close of the war. In the young Confederate’s final days, he recounts to Mr. Whitman his experiences which Whitman, in turn, finds opportunity to share with brother Clifton, a Union officer, who lies wounded in the same hospital. They are joined by family members who collect around Clifton following William’s death.

The story tells of young Southern men dashing off to join the fight and courageous Southern women who persuade politicos to contribute arms and supplies to Southern recruits and who even become blockade runners to ensure that those supplies reach the troops.  We are witness to a number of key battles of the war, introduced to the weapons used, and generally educated about what it would have been like to serve in, primarily, the Confederate ranks. There is significantly less information provided through the storyline about the war experiences of brother Clifton and the Northern perspective.

What is unique about the novel is that the brothers featured were real and many will find the facts surrounding their lives, so carefully researched, intriguing. The presentation of the novel is also stylistically unique in that it is written using the formal language of the era.

I had the sense in reading Two Brothers that Jones struggled to nail down the book’s genre as he set about writing it. The work often resembles non-fiction with much “telling” of history rather than the “showing” of character-driven action and drama that makes for good fiction. While the “telling” made for interesting history, as a piece of fiction, the book was less than satisfying. That said, Civil War buffs will enjoy the military aspects of the book which are well researched.

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3 thoughts on “Book Review: Two Brothers, One North, One South

  1. Rene,

    Thank you for hosting “Two Brothers: One North, One South” on your blog and writing a very thoughtful review. After completing nearly three years of research, I concluded that 1) the experiences of the Prentiss brothers constituted a story that had to be told, and 2) that it would reach the largest possible readership as an historical fiction. I also determined that accuracy was of greatest importance to the telling of this story, so closely based the novel on period records pertaining to these historical persons and events. That choice was made before starting to write, and the structure of the book, for better or worse, certainly reflects that decision. My hope is that “Two Brothers” will have meaning to those who can recognize that both brothers were American patriots . . . and for Civil War buffs who occasionally enjoy reading fiction that relies on actual events and the words of the participants.

    Cordially,

    David H. Jones