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review 2019-12-26 10:22
The Burry Man's Day (Dandy Gilver, #2)
The Burry Man's Day - Catriona McPherson

The quirky from book 1 doesn't hold so much in book 2, but boy howdy is the dark still there.  I'm not going to lie, while I was intrigued by the Burryman Festival, the description of the Burryman's ... costume? creeped me right out.  McPherson's detailed description made me feel claustrophobic and I could totally understand why children would cry upon seeing him.  


Dandy continues her unorthodox (for the times) partnership and I'm curious how the author is going to shape this investigative duo in future books.  I nailed the whodunnit part, but the ending... ugh, I did not see the ending coming and I was more than a little surprised and impressed that McPherson went there in what is ostensibly a cozy historical.


Will definitely read more of the series - and not just because I have the books.  ;)

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review 2019-12-26 10:15
After the Armistice Ball (Dandy Gilver, #1)
After the Armistice Ball - Catriona McPherson

Quirky, and a little bit dark.  It's been long enough now since I read it that I'm very fuzzy on most of the details, but I enjoyed it enough to immediately pick up book #2.  Dandy is a little odd at the start, and her partnership with a male character that's not her husband is innocent yet intriguing and challenging to my sense of what one could get away with during the time (the interval between WW1 and WW2).  

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review 2018-11-05 05:50
Still a classic, but showing its age
Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States) - James M. McPherson

I first read James McPherson's classic history of the Civil War era when I was in high school. At the time I had a pretty callow understanding of history; because of this, while I took a lot from McPherson's book, many of his arguments and details went largely unappreciated. In the years that followed his book remained on my shelf as a valued resource that I drew from, even as I moved on to more focused studies about the period. Recently, however, a friend's request brought me back to the book for my first cover-to-cover reading of it in decades. This proved an extremely interesting experience, for several reasons.


Foremost among them was the opportunity to learn the things I had missed the first time around. I credit this to my maturity, as I have a far greater range of interests than my 17-year-old self ever did. This helped give me a deeper appreciation for McPherson's book, as I saw the balance and nuance he displayed on the numerous topics he addressed.  I also found myself admiring even more so the fluidity of McPherson's presentation of the era and his ability to range from topic to topic in a way that never weakened my engagement with the text.


Yet for all of the book's strengths and my increased admiration for them, I also saw flaws that I missed the first time through. Foremost among them is McPherson's scope, for as brilliantly as he covers the lead up to the Civil War and the war itself, this remains his predominant focus. Other subjects relevant to the era, such as cultural developments, are ignored so long as they are irrelevant to his focus on the war and the events leading up to it, making his book less comprehensive than some of the others in the series. Another is the increasingly dated nature of the text. Unlike Robert Middlekauf with his volume on the Revolutionary era, McPherson has stated before that he has little interest in updating his work. Though his decision is understandable in some respects, the absence of the considerable amount of Civil War historiography that has been published over the past three decades erodes its value and will continue to do so as time went along.


Because of this, I finished McPherson's book with an appreciation both renewed and more tempered than before. While it remains the single best book on its subject, it is one that is showing its age. I expect that I will turn to it again in the years to come, but when I do it will be an awareness that it no longer can serve as the solitary go-to source for understanding this pivotal era of American history.

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text 2018-11-01 14:29
Reading progress update: I've read 276 out of 904 pages.
Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States) - James M. McPherson

Now that I've read a few books on the secession crisis, I can't say that I fully agree with McPherson's interpretation of it. Had he done a new edition, it would have been interesting to see if he would have revised it in light of some of the more recent works on the subject.

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text 2018-10-31 04:32
Reading progress update: I've read 137 out of 904 pages.
Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States) - James M. McPherson

I'm rereading McPherson's classic with a friend, and I came across this passage in his examination of the relationship between Republicans and the anti-immigrant Know-Nothings:

On the other hand, many antislavery leaders recognized the incongruity of nativism with their own ideology. "I do not perceive," wrote Abraham Lincoln, "how any one professing to be sensitive to the wrongs of the negroes, can join in a league to degrade a class of white men." William H. Seward had battled nativists in his state for more than a decade. . . An "anti-slavery man," said George W. Julian, founder of the Republican Party in Indiana, "is, of necessity, the enemy of [this] organized scheme of bigotry and proscription, which can only be remembered as the crowning and indelible shame of our politics."

Imagine what they would say about their own party today!

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