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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (2,030 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Drew Gilpin Faust Narrator: Lorna Raver Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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During the Civil War, 620,000 soldiers lost their lives—equivalent to six million in today’s population. This Republic of Suffering explores the impact of the enormous death toll from material, political, intellectual, and spiritual angles.

Drew Gilpin Faust delineates the ways death changed not only individual lives, but the life of the nation, and describes how a deeply religious culture reconciled the slaughter with its belief in a benevolent God. Throughout, the viewpoints of soldiers, families, statesmen, generals, preachers, poets, surgeons, and nurses, Northerners and Southerners, slaveholders and freed people, the most exalted, and the most humble are brought together to give a vivid understanding of the Civil War’s widely shared reality.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Extraordinary…overlooks nothing—from the unsettling enthusiasm some men showed for killing to the near-universal struggle for an answer to the question posed by the Confederate poet Sidney Lanier: ‘How does God have the heart to allow it?’”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Faust...yanks aside the usual veil of history to look narrowly at life’s intimate level for new perspectives from the past. She focuses on ordinary lives under extreme duress, which makes for compelling reading.” 

    USA Today

  • This Republic of Suffering is one of those groundbreaking histories in which a crucial piece of the past, previously overlooked or misunderstood, suddenly clicks into focus.”


  • “The beauty and originality of Faust’s book is that it shows how thoroughly the work of mourning became the business of capitalism, merchandised throughout a society.” 

    New Yorker

  • “Eloquent and imaginative, Ms. Faust’s book takes a grim topic—how America coped with the massive death toll from the Civil War—and makes it fresh and exciting…[A] widely and justly praised scholarly history.”

    New York Observer

  • This Republic of Suffering is a harrowing but fascinating read.” 

    Christian Science Monitor

  • “If you read only one book on the Civil War this year, make it this one.”

    American History

  • “[A] penetrating study…Faust exhumes a wealth of material—condolence letters, funeral sermons, ads for mourning dresses, poems and stories from Civil War–era writers—to flesh out her lucid account. The result is an insightful, often moving portrait of a people torn by grief.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Lorna Raver’s…reserved manner fits the somber topic, and her unhurried pace allows listeners to assimilate every word. With great versatility she bounces from describing the mourning garments of nineteenth-century widows to reciting the contemporary poetry of Emily Dickinson. Raver’s best moments come as she reads the letters of worried relatives seeking knowledge of the status and whereabouts of soldiers they fear may be dead.”


  • “Beautifully written, honest, and penetrating…Anyone wanting to understand the ‘real war’ and its transcendent meaning must face the facts Faust arrays before us…Essential.”

    Library Journal

  • “A moving work of social history, detailing how the Civil War changed perceptions and behaviors about death…An illuminating study.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • Winner of the 2009 Bancroft Prize
  • A 2008 ALA Notable Book Finalist for Nonfiction
  • A 2008 San Francisco Chronicle Best Book
  • A 2008 New York Times Book Review Top 10 Book of the Year
  • A 2008 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Nominee for History
  • A 2008 National Book Award Finalist
  • A 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist
  • A 2009 Pulitzer Prize Finalist for History
  • A 2008 New York Times Book Review Notable Book

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Michael Terpstra | 2/16/2014

    " Excellent book that explores how the trauma and death resulting from the American Civil War changed theological ideas of heaven, National Cemeteries and registry of the dead as the responsibility of National Government, and changes in poetic style. These are few of the changes brought on by the indescribable carnage brought on by the Civil War. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Annie | 2/15/2014

    " Nonfiction/Civil War: great book on the culture of death and dying during the American Civil War, easy to read "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Tracey | 2/12/2014

    " Liked THE SACRED REMAINS much better. While this book is very informative, THE SACRED REMAINS does a much better job of contextualizing the topic of death in American religious and cultural life. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Julie | 2/6/2014

    " Though the topic is quite morbid, this was an amazing read. Fascinating, informative, and well-paced, this book is an interesting look at death in the American Civil War. "

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About the Author

Drew Gilpin Faust is president of Harvard University, the first woman to serve in this role. She is the author of five previous books, including Mothers of Invention. She and her husband live in Cambridge, Massachusetts.