What Others Are Saying
Skillfully interweaving history and fiction in well-constructed, flowing prose, the author engages the reader from the beginning of The Unfinished Work and holds that attention as the story unfolds. The appeal of the work is far reaching: In-depth historical detail, character interaction with authentic Civil War–era individuals, and the eyewitness accounts from several battles will appeal to readers of both history and historical fiction. And the fast-paced action, lively and believable characters, and engrossing storylines will attract readers of general fiction.
--Greenleaf Book Group, editorial diagnosis
A Northern boy fights for the South in this rollicking Civil War novel.
When Confederate cavalrymen make their way into town on the afternoon of June 27, 1863, the good citizens of Hanover, Pa., are filled with contempt. That is, except for 19-year-old Jake Becker, who chooses to join the fight for southern independence after witnessing death and destruction during the Union Army’s invasion of Virginia. Factoring into his decision is haughty belle Eliza Bigler, exiled from Virginia to sit out the war in the supposedly tranquil haven of Hanover. She lets Jake know that fighting for the Southern cause will greatly improve his chances of courting her. Jake’s picaresque journey eventually lands him a glamorous berth as a guide to the jovial Confederate cavalry general Jeb Stuart, and the tide of battle gradually sweeps him toward Gettysburg. Meanwhile Jake’s father David joins a cavalry unit fighting with the Union Army, and a smaller civil war erupts in the Bigler household when Eliza surmises that her gentler little sister Kat also has her eye on Jake. Meredith, drawing on extensive historical research, paints a vivid recreation of the Gettysburg campaign as seen by men on both sides of the battle lines. Jake and David are hardly aware that they are on the margins of a great battle—for them the struggle is a series of small, chaotic fights, of sudden encounters between startled groups of soldiers who shoot and stab desperately at each other in a series of battles and skirmishes, before a final great assault at Gettysburg. Jake’s naïve pro-Confederate politics color the story, some of whose rebels are brave and chivalrous. Fortunately, the author’s fictional creations are colorfully three-dimensional. Eliza, in particular, is a glorious confection of self-pity, insecurity and sugarcoated chutzpah, a downscale Scarlett O’Hara who wrinkles her nose in distaste at wounded soldiers who have the effrontery to bleed in her presence.
An entertaining, human-scale rendering of the Gettysburg cataclysm.
Many works of historical fiction are difficult for the multitude of readers to enjoy because they are not well-grounded in the facts of history. Frank Meredith's "The Unfinished Work," however, reads like an exciting work of non-fiction because it is indeed well-grounded in the historical facts of Jeb Stuart's ride into Pennsylvania and the resulting Battle of Gettysburg. For one who has studied this campaign and is familiar with the "ground" as I am, I found myself envisioning the places and events as they unfolded in Meredith's fabulously-written narrative. I loved this book and the story!
--J.D. Petruzzi, Civil War historian and author
One of the finest recent historical novels, this engaging and attention-grabbing account is deeply rooted in the actual Civil War events of south-central Pennsylvania during the Gettysburg Campaign and is sure to fascinate readers while at the same time educating them on the Confederate invasion and the Keystone residents' response.
(Endorsement that will appear on the hard cover edition, to be released June 1, 2010.)
--Scott L. Mingus, Sr., author of "Flames Beyond Gettysburg: The Gordon Expedition, June 1863"
(The following is excerpted from Mr. Mingus' thorough review, posted on his outstanding blog, Cannonball: http://www.yorkblog.com/cannonball/2009/12/book-review-the-unfinished-wo...)
Unlike many works of historical fiction, Meredith relies quite heavily on the actual historical accounts of the Battle of Hanover and the fierce fighting at Gettysburg. Drawing upon his impressive knowledge of local geography and the network of roads, for those of us who live in York County, this novel is clearly written with a keen understanding of the culture of the 19th century Pennsylvania German farmers and residents, and the Civil War buff will appreciate the attention to historical detail, including some useful footnotes (unusual for a novelist to add this much appreciated touch). For those readers who enjoy historical fiction, The Unfinished Work has broad appeal for both men and women, and has an excellent storyline that holds the reader's attention.
--Scott L. Mingus, Sr., author of "Flames Beyond Gettysburg: The Gordon Expedition, June 1863"
You have a real gift in making the readers care about your characters which gets them more emotionally involved with the storyline. Plus, I really liked how you tried to distinguish between what we know as historical fact and what is fiction. As a result, your book has a true intellectual honesty that is often lacking in other novels of this type. A great job!
--John T. Krepps, author of the definitive history on the Battle of Hanover: "A Strong and Sudden Onslaught: The Cavalry Action at Hanover, Pennsylvania"
My roots and life are in Hanover and I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It addresses the slavery issue in a way that William Faulkner and Thomas Wolfe would have admired. This book is not a dime novel: it's literature and history.
--Henry McLin, Borough Councilman, Hanover, PA
Frank Meredith, author of The Unfinished Work, from Savannah (www.TheUnfinishedWork.com) masterfully spun a tale of love, war and coming of age during the Civil War.
When Jake decided to fight for the South’s right to govern itself, he left home as an idealistic youth, ready to fight for his beliefs and in the end, win the right to court the woman he thought he was in love with. He battled himself while making the decision to fight with the Virginia regiment, knowing he did not believe in slavery, but strongly believing in the country’s right to govern itself and not be bullied by the North. His father, David, understood his son’s reasons and gave his blessing for his son to fight for what he believed in.
“Though his heart felt like crumbling, David managed a smile,” wrote Meredith. “Jake’s reasoning seemed sound, and he truly believed he was following God’s will. What more could a father ask?”
Before he left for the war, Jake visited with his intended sweetheart, Eliza Bigler, only to find himself intrigued by her younger sister, Kathleen. Kat had seemed to blossom into a young woman overnight, and the love that shone from her eyes for him warmed his heart in ways Eliza never had. Confused, Jake thought that he would have time to sort that out during his adventure on the battlefield. He soon found out how wrong he was. Jake soon found himself with the job of courier for General Jeb Stuart, going back and forth between the officers delivering messages throughout the day and night.
Meredith’s story was full of historical facts and people. The battles were so finely crafted that you could almost smell the smoke and feel the heat of the blasts. The budding romance between Jake and the Bigler sisters brought welcome relief to the intensity of the battles and the emotions on both sides of the war. He easily made a case for the North and the South, leaving the choice of who was right up to the individual reader. The tragedy of war was clearly defined in the deaths of the brave soldiers on both sides of the war and the emotions of the families and friends who knew them. The battles of Hanover, Hunterstown and Gettysburg were intricately weaved together and left no time to stop to take a breath. Anyone interested in history, romance or human nature will find this book a non-stop source of information and entertainment.
--News & Experts
I met the author of The Unfinished Work at a book signing at a cavalry re-enactment last summer and we exchanged books. Due to a busy schedule, I didn't get around to picking it up and reading it until now - but I was certainly pleasantly surprised when I finally did.
This is a really well-researched book that brings out little-known facts about the battles of Gettysburg, Hanover - and the least well known one - Hunterstown. By making his fictional characters interact with the likes of JEB Stuart and George Custer, the author gives a history lesson in an effortless and entertaining way.
The author also does a great job in the appendix pointing out what is fact and what is fiction - a needed addition since he does such a good job of weaving the two together.
As a fellow Civil War fiction author and a resident of Gettysburg, I think this book will be enjoyed by those who are interested in learning more about the battles that occurred above the Mason-Dixon line, or those who just want an entertaining read.
--Jessica James, author of "Shades of Gray: A Novel of the Civil War in Virginia."
As a student of Civil War history, I typically read non-fiction accounts of the battles. When I first heard that Frank had published this book, and that it was a fictional account of the battles of Hanover and Gettysburg, I was very skeptical. Since Frank and I have chatted on-line several times, I decided to give the book a try. I must say this book is one of the most enjoyable books I have read in the past year or so. Frank has a firm grasp of the events surrounding Hanover, Hunterstown and the East Cavalry Field fight at Gettysburg. But what struck me MOST was the development of his fictional characters. Buy this book, you will surely be as entralled as I was.
--Michael Noirot, St Louis, MO
I loved the book. It isn’t often that I get to say that. It helps that I am fascinated by the history you’ve included in the novel. Plus, the fact that you included such a detailed appendix proves to me that you know the area and you conducted significant research before writing. I’m glad that you didn’t sugarcoat the ending or other parts of the novel. I think it’s necessary to describe the toll of war on society. Yet the love story gives the novel a lighter tone.
--Jess Krout, reviewer, The Evening Sun, Hanover, PA
(Read her published review at the Evening Sun Online)
There is a fine line to be walked when blending historical facts and storytelling. Frank Meredith is to be congratulated on both accounts! His heart- warming account of the characters along with the telling of a 'little known' cavalry clash in Hunterstown, that was critical to the outcome of the Gettysburg Campaign, is truly amazing!
Excellent subject matter for a movie! Well done, Frank! Future generations will thank you! Hunterstown does!
--Laurie Harding, President, Hunterstown Historical Society
I completed the book this morning and am still somewhat overwhelmed sorting out many thoughts and emotions that it inspired. That is a good thing. I like books that entertain, but I LOVE books that leave me with something to sort out. The value of the reading experience goes well beyond the reading time. This book is marvelous!
--Karen Shelly, Wellsville, PA
I've read tons of books on the Civil War and that era, and by far your book has surpassed them all. Authors like Garry Wills "Lincoln at Gettysburg", and such haven't done what Frank Meredith so eloquently put together in "Unfinished Work". I look forward to any sequel or more books from Frank.
--Michael Williams, Albany, NY
This book was fantastic! I purchased it from the author, Frank Meredith, while attending a Civil War Re-enactment Weekend in Peterboro, NY. I was drawn to the attractive cover and Frank gave a brief description of the book. I was immediately interested and couldn't wait to get home and begin reading.
The characters all came to life on the pages! I could picture Jake, the main character. I could feel the pain of his struggles with his sense of duty to self, God and country. I felt the struggles he fought as he tried to find which of two young women was his real true love. I felt so many emotions as I turned page after page; rage and sorrow at how he was treated at times by someone who supposedly loved him. I felt desperation for another character as she tried and tried to gain attention from him. And the ending was phenomenal - I had to find out on the final page who his true love really was!
When I purchased the book I specifically asked Frank if this was a book that contained lots of the military technical details. As I am an "amateur" Civil War history lover - I don't especially enjoy reading all of the intricacies of the regimental movements, etc. He said the book did contain some of that, so I had some reservations, but purchased it anyway. What I discovered was that because of the close association I made with the characters in the story line, I found I was eager and it was very easy for me to follow along with the battle. Frank includes photos of the area and maps of the battlefields so as I read, I could refer to them frequently to get my bearings.
Another special feature of the book is that in the back are references that correspond to the book pages. There you can refer and discover what is factual and what is fiction - I found myself using that quite frequently.
I would list this in my top 3 favorite books ever read. It was a book that I couldn't wait to finish - it was so good that I didn't want to put it down. But on the other hand, it was so good that I didn't want it to end. I cannot wait until we have the opportunity to read another book by this author!
--Debra A. Hogan, NY
Where do I begin? First of all, I love the characters in this book. There are two fictional families that mesh wonderfully with the historical figures: famous and not so famous. I can't imagine how much research went in to finding so many historical people with such interesting stories to tell. And the fictional Beckers and Biglers are down right fascinating. Nice job with the love triangle!
I thought I knew a lot about the Battle of Gettysburg, but I knew nothing at all about the events that take place in this book! And they were so critical! I don't want to say any more for fear of spoiling it for anyone who hasn't read it, but this book is FILLED with MUST READ stories and details for any Civil War buff. It also fills in a lot of details about Jeb Stuart's infamous late arrival at Gettysburg. And I knew nothing about the battles in Hanover and Hunterstown.
I also like the different ways the author used the theme of unfinished work.
The action is fast paced, and the scenes unfolded like a movie. It sure would make a good one!
--Jeff Williams, Utica, NY
The book was great, you had me at the edge of my seat many times. I only got choked up twice, once when the horse dies, and when David visited his wife's grave. Good news, bad news several people want to BORROW the book from me. I'm only going to lend it to my girlfriend and my mother. The rest will have to buy it. It would make great reading for a high school history class, every year they are asked to read a piece of historical fiction, I feel this is a story they could connect with. The character of Jake is so well written, I could see him grow into a real man.
Thank you so much for sharing your story with me.
--Jennifer Seiberlich, North Wales, PA
It was like a movie playing before me. There were so many passages of dialogue that can do nothing short of move the reader. Numerous times I had to fight tears, especially as I saw the absolute sweetness that you brought out in the relationships between characters. There were also times where I laughed out loud. The work is ultimately honest, spiritual and human. There is so much I could say about various details of the story. It was beautiful and transporting. I love the book.
--Andre French, Sharon Springs, NY
Just a note to tell you how much I enjoyed "The Unfinished Work." The characters all came alive, and it was easy to empathize with them. The Civil War history around Hanover was all new to me and deserves another reading on my part. The love story was touching, and I admire the way you let us know who won out!
--Carol Hurd, Marlton, NJ
I read this book as soon as it came out, and I really enjoyed it! The mix of historical accuracy and fiction is just right. I love all kinds of historical fiction and this book didn't disappoint!
--Diane Rowell, Harrisburg, PA
I'd just like to tell all of you that this book is WONDERFUL. So much research, so much love, so much passion was put into every word...Congrats Frank on the accomplishment. Someone pass this on to Oprah and MAYBE this book will get the credit and attention it deserves! I'll always be proud to have been one of the first to read it!
--Lorae French, New York, NY