The Thackery journal - historical fiction by John Holt

On Countdown January 3 – 10 2015

This enthralling, gripping story of the American Civil War follows the fortunes of two young men, Jacob Thackery and Miles Drew, friends since childhood, who enlist on opposite sides of this war and hope never to meet each other as enemies and never to have to decide whether or not to shoot; until the time comes when they meet face to face in the strangest of circumstances. John Holt begins his narrative at the most moving part of the book, when Jacob's father Aaron sits by the fire reading and rereading the journal left behind him by his dead son, and reliving his son's last moments. In the end, we come full circle back to these moments. The book is researched in tremendous depth; and the details of places, small towns and battles are used as part of the narrative so that we learn about them easily and naturally, not as if they were a history lesson but simply as the background to the people we meet and to the things that happen to them. This is a book which is almost impossible to put down once you begin it. The story is intricate and the strands of the two lives are cleverly interwoven, but it is easy to follow and compulsively page turning. The central plot, the plan of his own generals to assassinate Lincoln, is both original and yet full of convincing detail. The minor characters are vividly drawn and full of life. But it is the two young men and their friendship which lies at the emotional centre of the book, and it's impossible not to care about them and to be moved by the position they find themselves in. Well done, Mr Holt. This is a real tour de force. Highly recommended.