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A World on Fire: An Epic History of Two Nations Divided Hardcover – 4 Nov 2010

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 1040 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane; 1st Edition edition (4 Nov. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846142040
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846142048
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 6.4 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 236,457 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Amanda Foreman is the award-winning historian and internationally best-selling author of 'Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire' and 'A World on Fire'. She is also the recipient of the 1998 Whitbread Award for Biography. 'Georgiana' has been translated into a dozen languages and inspired a television documentary, a radio play starting Dame Judi Dench, and an Oscar winning feature film, 'The Duchess', staring Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes. 'A World on Fire' was published in the UK in fall 2010 to critical acclaim, and is slated for release in the US in summer 2011.

Product Description


Amanda Foreman's magnificent book provides a completely fresh perspective on the first great modern conflict. Weaving together a vast panoply of people and events, it dramatically brings alive this extraordinary period on British and American history. (Antony Beevor )

It rolls along with the ragged grandeur of one of Ulysses S. Grant's infantry battalions. If you've an appetite for serious history, you'll be in hog-heaven. (Sam Leith Spectator )

'A World on Fire is an achievement as enjoyable as it is impressive. As in a great nineteenth-century novel, a teeming cast propels this epic - the gallant and the craven, scoundrels and lovers, diplomats and freebooters - some helplessly caught in the gale, others with their hands firmly on the levers of power. Charles Dickens appears in this book; had he been an historian he might well have written it.' (Richard Snow, Editor American Heritage, 1990-2007 )

A World on Fire is a staggering achievement. (Christopher Silvester Daily Express )

Here is an iridescent book; vivid like a rainbow but rather more substantial...The book is like Gone With The Wind but with the true history inserted, and even more importantly, it is a biography of two people at an epic moment in their shared history. Anger, resentment, sympathy, loyalty, all the emotions that characterise Anglo-American relations today, can be traced back to this period. (Antonia Fraser Mail on Sunday )

From the Publisher

I am the publisher of this book. It is enormously heartening to see the enthusiasm for Amanda Foreman's book in the overwhelming majority of the comments posted here, especially as they are by people who have so clearly immersed themselves in it for a long time. It is a book which repays the commitment made to it, as many commentators have said.

A few of the comments refer to unspecified errors that others have supposedly detected, and one or two even claim there are profound - though uncatagorised - mistakes, attacking the book's 'academic accuracy' without giving a single example as reference. Only one reviewer here actually points to anything which might qualify as a mistake - a footnote error on page 797.

There are always differences of opinion and emphasis among historians, which are just that - differences of opinion and emphasis, not 'mistakes'. And despite our best efforts all history books, especially long ones, contain typos and even occasionally minor editing errors which we will generally correct for the paperback; I am always grateful to hear from anyone who has spotted any such errors. But it does pain me when the open forum of Amazon is used to repeat - perhaps innocently, but certainly unfairly - unsubstantiated criticism. For the true professionals' opinions of this extraordinarily engaging, highly original and astonishingly researched book, please look at the reviews posted nearby.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. K. A. Wheatley TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 25 Jan. 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book is an absolute monster. It weighs a tonne, the hardback edition coming in at over eight hundred pages of text, it was so heavy I could not read it in bed without straining my wrists. It seems daunting, not only in size, but in scope. It really is what the word epic was invented for.

Foreman attempts to cover a great deal of ground, and when you start to understand what she is doing, it is a wonder the book wasn't considerably weightier. It is an account of the history of the American Civil War, and a story about the people involved in it from their letters and firsthand accounts, as well as the history of the relations between Britain and America at the time. In the introduction she compares her attempt to the RSC's in the round production of Charles Dicken's Nicholas Nickleby, and terms her book as 'history in the round.'

I for one, really enjoyed this approach. I found it engaging and enthralling in equal measure. I understand other reviewers have taken issue with the historical accuracy of some of the points Foreman makes in the book. I cannot possibly comment on this, being about as far from expert on the history of the American civil war as you are likely to get. What I do know however is that in dealing with such a monumental event, in what is a relatively few number of pages, given the complexity of the subject matter, Foreman was always going to upset somebody. Not everything could be included. That her approach is more populist than academic textbook is an utter relief to me. If someone had said to me I would read the best part of 800 pages on the subject of the American Civil War and enjoy it, I would have found it hard to believe before reading this book.

Foreman writes with charm. She engages you as the reader.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Merlin on 31 Jan. 2011
Format: Hardcover
I have just completed A World on Fire, Amanda Foreman's staggering achievement which has been compared to both Gone With The Wind and War and Peace by serious and eminent reviewers. Although I had read and admired Ms Foreman's previous book, Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, I was half prepared to be disappointed based upon the high expectations I had following these and the other accolades she had already received. But no - to the contrary, over 5 glorious days I was swept away by the simple beauty of Ms Foreman's prose and her page turning story telling skills...She tackled one of the most forensically scrutinised subjects in history, the American Civil War and yet somehow she mined fresh and fascinating new perspectives. Her scope is vast and the historical sweep is global yet her book remains intimate and hugely entertaining!
Words like masterpiece, tour de force and magnificent are applied far too easily these days but it is without hesitation that I readily apply them now to Ms Foreman's latest book. Do not be daunted by its length...It is indeed as most reviewers have already declared, a towering achievement and a truly great read!
I have entitled my review "Critical Integrity" for a reason. Anyone who has actually completed a book ( published or not) knows so well that the lonely often selfish and endless journey is riddled with emotion, conflict, guilt, elation, disappointment and sleepless nights....It is never an easy journey. It may be thrilling and indeed in many ways it can be rewarding... Certainly it is always challenging....but it is never easy...
Published writers like all others in the hazardous arena of public opinion rightly face scrutiny of their work... Indeed the internet has empowered us all with the ability to express a personal view...
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52 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Red on Black TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 28 Nov. 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In the immortal advice to a tourist were I start to a journey into examining the American Civil War it wouldn't be from this point. By any standards "A World on Fire" by Amanda Foreman is a big narrative history which self proclaims itself to be "epic" in its title and it certainly is a beast when its comes to size (frankly my arm ached holding it) and scale amounting to 816 pages of narrative and a further 100+ of detailed sources. Some other reviewers have rightly complained about the lack of a bibliography. All I would say was that if one was added you would need to take our hernia insurance to read this book, although the lavish illustrations are some compensation.

Foreman's underpinning concept is however a very interesting angle namely a transatlantic view of the American civil war one of the most fascinating of all modern conflicts and which has attracted huge historical attention. Thus rather than another book primarily about the "usual suspects" namely Lincoln, Lee, Sherman, Grant and Forest we have a different set of protagonists most notably Lord Lyons the UK ambassador to Washington and possibly one of the most introverted men who ever lived; US Secretary of State William Seward already charted in humongous detail in Doris Kearns Goodwin's truly epic "Team of Rivals"; Charles Francis Adams the grandson of the great John Adams and US ambassador to the Court St James and the spiky Lord John Russell the English Whig and Liberal politician who served twice as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the mid-19th century and was the Foreign Secretary throughout the course of the Civil War.
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