Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Review of A House Divided Against Itself

A House Divided Against Itself is technically fiction, though it is based on the true stories of several men and women during the Civil War. Crafted from dozens of letters, journal entries and research of official documents, the story is told from the points of view of four key characters.

John Wesley Culp is literally the little brother, as he stands a mere five feet tall. He and the other characters in the book grew up in Gettysburg, PA. John's job ended up taking him down south to Virginia, where he felt more at home and more accepted than he ever did in Pennsylvania. As a result, when it came time to choose sides for the Civil War, he chose the Confederates.

William Esias Culp is the older brother, who has been disgusted with his younger brother for most of their lives. John's status as a traitor to the family is firmly cemented in his mind after the war begins and they lose their parents. William is fiercely dedicated to the Union Army.

Johnston Hastings "Jack" Skelly, Jr. is John Culp's best friend, but has chosen to remain faithful to the Union army. He is, however, also still faithful to his best friend, though they are on opposing sides.

Mary Virginia Wade, also known as Jennie, is Jack Skelly's girlfriend.

All four of these people really lived. Their lives as depicted in the book are fairly accurate. The historical events, which are described in great detail, all really happened. If you have ever studied the Civil War, particularly Gettysburg, their names are going to be familiar to you. What is fictionalized is some of the personal interactions and thoughts that they may or may not have had. Sometimes it is difficult to discern between the fiction and the nonfiction, but you can trust that the story is a true one.

Each character takes turns telling their story. Oftentimes their stories are the same, just told from different points of view. For example, there is a battle in which brother is actually fighting against brother, which apparently didn't occur as frequently as the Civil War has been romanticized to have happened. You hear about the battle from each brother's point of view, as well as Jack's perspective. Each one is telling essentially the same story, but then as has more to add about other events surrounding it. The stories also begin at the start of the war, from enlistment, all the way through the famous Battle at Gettysburg.

Chapters are meant to cover an extended period of time, but sometimes the narrator inserts a couple of paragraphs that deal with a specific day. The language used by each character is meant to reflect how people actually spoke back then, so some spellings and grammatical structures are a little different than you may be used to. At the same time, it also feels somewhat modernized for ease of reading. The inclusion of numerous photographs, drawings and maps add to the validity of the stories. Its presentation as a collection of memoirs is also designed to feel less dry and oppressive than reading nonfiction can be for some people. Bob O'Connor has clearly done his homework.

A House Divided Against Itself is available on line at www.boboconnorbooks.com or at amazon.com. It is also available on all e-book formats.


  1. Thanks for hosting todays virtual book tour stop and for your kind review. Bob

    1. You're welcome! I live in Rochester, so that picture of Jack Skelly was familiar. I need to revisit that exhibit!


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