Picks and Pans Review: Love and War

updated 12/03/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/03/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

by John Jakes

The Hazard family lives in the North and the Main family in the South. Friendships between them were set when sons from each family went to West Point. But it is 1861, and the families take opposite sides in the War Between the States. Jakes got into this kind of historical novel with his 1970s paperback series, the Kent Family Chronicles, eight long-winded yarns of America's early days. Love and War follows a Jakes novel called North and South, published two years ago, which covers the decades before the Civil War. Prolific he is, but Jakes is to good writing what Grandma Moses was to fine art: There are a lot of recognizable details, and the colors are bright. The comparison would be more apt if Grandma Moses had painted murals the size of Grand Central Station. This novel is 1,011 pages long, and it is peopled with stick figures. Jakes' Lincoln would seem bloodless even if he didn't suffer so disastrously by comparison with Gore Vidal's recent evocation of the character. Jakes is especially inept with his women; they are either total angels or abject villains. If you want to read about the Civil War, get one of Bruce Catton's histories. Or try Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage. That brief classic has more drama, romance and poetry in one paragraph than there are in all the pages of Love and War. (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, $19.95)

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