When I was growing up, I made the leap from reading Little House on the Prairie to devouring series such as The Clan of the Cave Bear in the span of maybe a year. Or so I remember. I distinctly recall an aunt of mine saying, “Your mom let’s you read that?” when she saw my copy of The Valley of the Horses. Yes. Yes she does.
In retrospect, it was somewhat advanced in terms of content, and perhaps my mom should have been a wee more vigilant, but I’m none the worse for it, and would argue that I’m actually better for it, as I would have never discovered my love of all things American Civil War (or not until much later in life in any case) had I not gotten my youngish hands on North and South by John Jakes.
The series follows the families of Northerner George Hazard and Southern born and bred Orry Main, two young men who meet and become friends at West Point before the outbreak of the Civil War. We stay with the Hazard and Main families during the Mexican-American war and rising tensions between the North and South, through the Civil War (Love and War), and finally the Reconstruction era (Heaven and Hell) following the end of the war. After finishing this series, I obsessed about that period of American history, reading everything I could get my hands on, including John Jakes great Kent Family Chronicles series. It is an obsession that is still with me to this day.
If you’ve read Meet Lynne, you’ll see that I cry a lot. In an early draft of my bio, instead of mentioning Albus Dumbledore’s death as one I am still not over, I originally had a character from the North and South series. I won’t mention any names, in case you haven’t read it (what are you waiting for??) or haven’t watched the mini series – I refuse to spoil it for you. But it was as shocking, as unexpected, as emotional as anything J.K. Rowling could ever pull off.
You’ve been warned.