• This Republic of Suffering

  • Death and the American Civil War
  • By: Drew Gilpin Faust
  • Narrated by: Lorna Raver
  • Length: 10 hrs and 54 mins
  • 4.2 out of 5 stars (286 ratings)

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This Republic of Suffering

By: Drew Gilpin Faust
Narrated by: Lorna Raver
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Publisher's Summary

During the Civil War, 620,000 soldiers lost their lives - equivalent to six million in today's population. This Republic of Suffering explores the impact of the enormous death toll from material, political, intellectual, and spiritual angles. Drew Gilpin Faust delineates the ways death changed not only individual lives but the life of the nation and describes how a deeply religious culture reconciled the slaughter with its belief in a benevolent God.

Throughout, the viewpoints of soldiers, families, statesmen, generals, preachers, poets, surgeons and nurses, Northerners and Southerners, slaveholders, freed people, the most exalted, and the most humble are brought together to give a vivid understanding of the Civil War's widely shared reality.

©2008 Drew Gilpin Faust (P)2008 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

"Beautifully written, honest, and penetrating...Anyone wanting to understand the 'real war' and its transcendent meaning must face the facts Faust arrays before us...Essential." ( Library Journal)

What listeners say about This Republic of Suffering

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

a unique civil war perspective

This is a wonderful book. A new & unique twist on understanding the Civil War, which is an amazing accomplishment given all that there is already. Beautifully written and beautifully read. Each chapter/subject seems to roll seamlessly into the next, so you hardly notice the page (I mean minutes) roll by. One of the best history books I've listened to from Audible in several years.

29 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Schoolmarm narrator

The book is well researched and interesting(and somewhat tedious if you are not "into" Civil War history) . The narrators treatment of letters and papers from the period is a problem however. She adopts a schoolmarm tone that is both dismissive of and condescending to the people that wrote the documents. I found that irritating.

17 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Good book - terrible narration

The narrator reminded me of the voice of Rudolph in the old claymation cartoon, but the book was well written and informative.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

This Republic of Suffering

Drew Gilpin Faust's perspective on the Civil War is a must read for anyone who loves history and understands how our past shapes our present. Although at times the details are unflinching and grisly, they are included to paint a graphic picture of the true cost of war, and to put pain, loss and grief in true perspective. This should be required reading for American history students.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

pretty good

this was quite interesting although the reader sounds like she is preaching and it really works for the quotations but sometimes I wanted a break in tone.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

amazing book, great narration!

Every American should read this book to understand the true cost of the Civil War

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Vivid Insights

Drew Gilpin Faust has added something valuable to the popular literature on the Civil War in "This Republic of Suffering." Focusing on the consequences of war rather than the battles and generals, Faust sets the conflict in human context. He links the death and suffering to public policy, record keeping, current attitudes, funeral practices and all manner of things which changed as a result of the battles.

The first half of the book was the most valuable to me. After that Faust digresses into the history of the mortuary business, accounting for the dead and religion. The religion section was weakest in my view. Statements were made that were not checked unrelated to the Civil War. For example, Faust asserts that the Bible sets the reation at 6,000 years. This is untrue so far as the Canon is concerned. At least I could not find it when I double checked. Individuals who have read the Bible sometimes speculate and calculate that number of years. This is a huge difference. The author just seemed to take a stereotypical view of religion in general that I questioned the entire section. Everyone cannot be an expert in every field so I don't fault the author for this chapter nor do I question his motivation.

That said,Faust has made a great contribuiton to our understanding of the human costs of the war and its continued effects on our daily lives - apart from racial issues.

This book is informative, surprising, entertaining, disturbing, and well written. The reading is excellent.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A nation born in tears.

Drew Gilpin Faust has managed to draw together the threads of the history of grieving during and after the Civil War and weave them into a tapestry that exposes and explains the unutterable grief that both the North and the South experienced. He also shows us that the relation between the Nation and its citizens changed profoundly during and after the war on account of the dead and how they should be dealt with and who is responsible for and to them.

Lorna Raver was a perfect match for this material.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Awesome Book

This book revealed to me so much about our present culture, i.e. the southern bible belt.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

"The work of Death" - a compelling theme

The central theme of this book is "The work of death". It analyzes how death and dying worked in Civil War-era society, how it transformed Judeo-Christian, mostly fundamentalist, men when they killed, and how industry and the service sector had to transform to handle the disposition of the remains of so many men who died far from home. I understood, in a statistical sense, the number of wounded and dead at Fredericksburg, Antietam, Gettysburg, but I never thought about how a soldier's remains were identified and how their family was notified. We take "dog tags", National Cemeteries, and War Department notification for granted, but these things were created during and after the Civil War.

The narrator is sometimes a bit dramatic and if the subject matter were more dryly historical, it may have been more off-putting. However, her drama, in the face of the often ghastly imagery of Civil War dead, kind of worked.

My main complaint is that the book is often repetitive. Some themes, like that of The Good Death, are revisited repeatedly; more than is necessary to illustrate the author's point.

All-in-all, this is a compelling book. I heard about it while listening to an equally compelling podcast called Death, et seq which deals with the disposition of the dead and the law. It mentioned the book in the context of funereal and burial practices, including embalming, that originated during the Civil war era.