Written by John Jakes
Review by Mark F. Johnson

It’s early autumn in 1720, and Sydney Greech is walking down the streets of Charles Town with his fiancée as they discuss marriage. She carefully hints that she doesn’t like his family name and would be very happy if he were to change it. Just then he hears church bells ringing and decides on Bell as his new name. Thus is born the beginning of the Bell dynasty in South Carolina.

Jakes follows the Bell clan through the antebellum years and on through the horrors of the Civil War. The story is reminiscent of the author’s previous Civil War saga, North and South, which is to say that it’s an excellent, enthralling story. However, those who have read Jakes’ previous works may recognize some previously used themes and plot vehicles.

While North and South is a sprawling epic covering many areas of the conflict, Charleston is the Civil War in the South in microcosm. As such, it explores many of the issues that led the country to war and also shines a harsh light on those who profited from the hardships and deprivations suffered by the residents of Charleston. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see this story turned into a TV miniseries.