Book Review: A HOUSE DIVIDED AGAINST ITSELF, by Bob O’Connor

A HOUSE DIVIDED AGAINST ITSELF, by Bob O’Connor is not a novel I would have picked up on my own. I’m not a big history buff, and I never really cared for that time period in our country’s history. However, if I had not picked up the novel, it would have been my loss, because it is so much more than a historical text. In fact, the historical part, for me, was very secondary to the actual story it told.

It was only after I had finished reading the book that I researched some about it, because I always try to make sure my reviews are written based on my impressions alone, and not what anyone else has to say or thinks or feels about a book. I didn’t realize the book was historically accurate when I read it. What this means is that the book has the ability, then, to reach a large audience of readers: those who like a good story, those who like historical and historically accurate novels, and those who are interested in the past and in particular the Civil War.

 

It has enough historical accuracy and information to please most history buffs, but it tells a good enough story that you’re not bogged down in the history like it’s a textbook lesson. I think this book has a wide reader appeal because of this.

 

FORMATTING AND EDITING

 

There is one aspect of this book that is both positive and negative at the same time, and that is the voice of the narrators. The book is told from multiple points of view, and after the first two chapters, I wasn’t sure how this would work out—but it did work out, quite nicely. It overlaps a little bit between the narrative, showing both brothers’ points of views about similar things, without actually repeating the same scenes over again in each chapter/POV shift.

 

For example, when the younger brother, Wesley, decided to enlist in the South to ‘defend his land’, his older brother, William, didn’t understand. We see why Wesley does what he does, but then we see how William interprets it, or misinterprets it, so that the unfortunate misunderstandings between these brothers are obvious to us, the reader, but we also see how they are not obvious to either brother. This happens with various events throughout the novel, and I liked seeing through both eyes.

 

The downside to this was that the writing, particularly for the younger brother, uses the characters’ voices, in first person POV, and as such, is written more like they might speak. Thus, for the younger brother, we get words like: talkin, thinkin, wonderin, cause (because) and the like, but without the apostrophe for the missing letters. This was sometimes confusing to me, and I would have preferred to have the ‘ to make it clear that this was the intent. However, had that apostrophe been used, I do like the tone and using the voice of the character to really bring the characters alive for the reader.

 

Also, there were minor editing issues, such as comma placement, that made a few phrases a little confusing. However, the editing and formatting were well done in general and the minor errors were not enough to ruin the pleasure of reading.

 

CHARACTERIZATION AND PLOT

 

While it’s hard when trying to write historically accurately to really have much of a plot that the author can control, I think O’Connor did a fantastic job really bringing these brothers to life in the story. I found myself liking the younger brother, a lot more than the older one, so much so that I did sometimes find myself wanting to skip William’s chapters and move forward to read Wesley instead—and not because the chapters with William weren’t good too; I was just much more sympathetic to Wesley, especially in the beginning.

 

I did find the entire story made me a bit sad, and realizing that these things really did happen actually made that worse. I can’t imagine living in these times and experiencing these things, and yet, in the scheme of things, this wasn’t so very long ago. This book brought the struggles of this time period into my perspective in a way I could relate, by seeing it through the two different points of view of people on different sides of a war.

 

OVERALL

 

I’m glad I was given a review copy of this book to provide this review, because, based on the subject matter and the limited book description on Amazon.com, I would not have picked this book up on my own. I’m glad I read it. I enjoyed the story, for what it was. History buffs or Civil War enthusiasts might come away from the book with a completely different perspective, but from the human aspect of sympathizing with these two brothers, I felt the book entertained—and that is exactly what a book should do.

 

I’d love to see the Amazon.com page updated with more information about the book itself, with a good description of what the story is about, so others can see that there is a lot more to this book than meets the eye. I think the limited description of the book there fools people into thinking this is more a docu-drama than it is a quality work of fiction with an historically accurate base. It’s definitely a book worth reading.

 

Takeaways: “…O’Connor did a fantastic job really bringing these brothers to life in the story… [A HOUSE DIVIDED AGAINST ITSELF] has enough historical accuracy and information to please most history buffs, but it tells a good enough story that readers aren’t bogged down in the history like it’s a textbook lesson. It’s definitely a book worth reading.”

 

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4 comments to Book Review: A HOUSE DIVIDED AGAINST ITSELF, by Bob O’Connor

  • Bob O'Connor  says:

    Wow. Great review. Thanks for that and for hosting the virtual book tour. I appreciate both.
    FYI — I dropped the letter “g” at the end of Wesley’s words because he was virtually illiterate. He could not spell the same word two times in the same sentence including the word “the”. But I had no way of explaining that in the book.
    Thanks again. Bob

  • Jennifer Walker  says:

    Thank you for the wonderfully detailed review, and for hosting Bob on his tour!

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