[If Jakes's "North and South"], first of a projected historical trilogy dealing with events before, during and after the American Civil War, follows the example of his eight-book Kent Family Chronicles, it will be a major bestseller. There's reason to think it will. To compare it to Thomas Keneally's recent "Confederates" would be to compare homespun to silk; but Jakes's tale belongs essentially to robust melodrama, where subtleties of style or characterization are not required. His villains are so villainous you love to hate them, his women wild and passionate (mostly), his action fast and often lurid. The story focuses on two families, the Southern Mains, slave-owning aristocrats, and the Pennsylvania Hazards, industrialists…. [The] families, over a 20-year span, become inextricably bound together by ties of both love and hate as the nation creeps towards civil war. Robert E. Lee, Lincoln, John Brown and other famous figures make appearances, though not in especially memorable form, and the story strides purposefully from one slightly overcolored scene to another.
A review of "North and South," in Publishers Weekly (reprinted from the December 18, 1981 issue of Publishers Weekly, published by R. R. Bowker Company, a Xerox company; copyright © 1981 by Xerox Corporation), Vol. 220, No. 25, December 18, 1981, p. 59.