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Historical Fiction Review    

By John Jakes
Dutton, 2002
$26.95 (480p)
ISBN: 0-525-94650-0

Written in triptych, John Jakes' Charleston is a lush, romantic, historical novel, an homage to his home for the last twenty-five years.

Beginning in 1720 and ending in 1866, Charleston is both the tale of a city and the saga of the Bell (nee Greech) family.

The Bells moved into the city prior to the American Revolution. As the family works its way into the upper echelons of society, they make lifelong enemies in the community and fight amongst themselves. One son backs the loyalists, while the other backs the patriots, setting in motion ideological splits lasting for three generations.

During the antebellum years, the city  is loved and admired for "her" charm, grace, beauty, and ambience by both Europeans and Americans. The Bells seemingly reach a detente. Each branch of the family has fine homes, healthy children, and wealth. Like many of their class, they own slaves as an economic necessity. Their fragile connection comes undone as their consciences clash.

The Civil War destroys both the city and the family. The descendents of the patriots become abolitionists while the descendents of the loyalists fight with the Rebels. As in the Victorian novels, all the characters get their come-uppance.

Jakes, the author of fifteen consecutive New York Times bestsellers, divides his time between Hilton Head, South Carolina and Greenwich, Connecticut.


Pam Kingsbury
Southern Scribe Reviews

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