Sunday, May 18, 2014

On to the War

When I finished reading The Furies by John Jakes I was pretty sure that the next book in the series, The Titans, would take place during the Civil War.  But I had no idea that it would take me almost 3 years to get around to reading it!  The Titans is the fifth book in the Kent Family Chronicles, a wildly popular eight book series that my parents read in the 70s.  The Kent Family Chronicles tell the story of the Kent Family (obviously!) and its journey from Europe in the mid 1700s, through 1877.  The Titans focused exclusively on the months leading up to the Civil War, and the first year of battles, 1860 through 1862.

There are three intermingled stories in The Titans.  The first is that of Michael Boyle, a trusted advisor and friend to Amanda Kent, and the person who became the guardian of her son, Louis, when Amanda died.  Louis' role in The Titans is fairly minor, but he is set up to be a bad guy in book 6, The Warriors.  Louis plans to profit from the war by selling goods to both sides through shell corporations.  Michael finally gives up trying to help Louis and joins the Union Army to make the separation complete.

The second story is that of Jephtha Kent, Amanda Kent's cousin.  Jephtha was a preacher working against slavery in The Furies.  In The Titans, Jephtha has quit the church, and is working as a news paper reporter for a pro-Union paper.  Jephtha has three sons, but his former wife, Fan, won't let him see the boys.  Fan is on the side of the Confederacy, and she and the boys live in the South.  Fan and Jephtha cross paths again when her new husband brings Fan and one of the boys to Jephtha's home city of Washington D.C. in order to try to stir up anti-Union sentiment.

Jephtha's oldest son, Gideon, is the protagonist in the third story.  Gideon is a headstrong Confederate soldier, who is confident that the South will be able to force the North to back down and allow them to secede in a matter of days. 

An interesting piece of Civil War history that I had never considered was how vulnerable Washington D.C. was in the early days of the war.  The South was sure that if they could seize the capital, the North would surrender.  D.C. was so close to the Confederacy, that it is easy to see why they would be confident that it would fall.

A nice thing about The Titans, especially for me, a person who waited 3 years between book four and book five, was that the characters frequently reminded the reader of what had happened in earlier books by telling about the family history and legends.  The Titans also wasn't as Forest Gump-ish as The Furies.  Because all of the action took place over two years and within a specific region, there was less opportunity for the characters to meet the famous people of the day.  There was also less talk of the inventions and trivia.

If you have made it this far in The Kent Family Chronicles, yes, push on and tackle The Titans.  If this would be your first introduction to the Kent Family, you should probably start at the beginning, with The Bastard, which I think was my favorite book in the series so far.  The Titans was better written than The Furies, and would be interesting to anyone who loves reading about the Civil War.  I have added The Warriors to the collection of books in my nightstand waiting for me to read them, but it may be another three years before I get there.

This is one more book down for the Rewind Challenge!

Next Up:  Great House by Nicole Krauss.  This is one for the Year of Re-Reading Challenge.

Still Listening to:  The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian

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