Picks and Pans Review: Charleston
The melodrama is as thick as Carolina swamp water—and as hard to swallow—in this historical novel by the author of the North and South trilogy. Jakes traces Charleston, S.C., from the Revolution till just after the "War of Separation" through the eyes of the fictional Bell clan. There are some compelling descriptions of battles (Jakes obviously did his homework), but the plot and especially the characters are sketchy.
Patriarch Thomas Bell and his line are honest, brave and reverent; their foes are sadistic, debauched—and anti-Semitic for good measure. Jakes devises laughable demises for many in the cast, such as the fellow who is pushed off a dock and fed to an alligator a la Captain Hook. Amid the bloodshed and lust lite (a discreet curtain is drawn when the breathing gets heavy), textbooklike exposition fills pages: "After Guilford Court House, Hobkirk's Hill, Eutaw Springs in early September, Greene was in a position to advance towards the coast." Zzz. (Dutton, $26.95)
Bottom Line: Gator bait