From the book's insert: "The author [...] has given us a magisterial work with an enormous cast of unforgettable characters..."
This is precisely why I disliked the novel.
Doctorow's effort is grandiose. A novel about the many people whose lives were changed by the Civil War, both black and white, rich and poor. According to my Gone With the Wind addiction (former, thank you very much), I should have fallen in love with this book.
Unfortunately, I felt that he reached too far. The war cliches - women hiding silver, freed slaves confused by their freedom, polite yet hardened soldiers - reach epic proportions. While some details are fresh and welcomed, the majority of this book has the "been there, seen that" air about it. The numerous characters, rather than give the feeling of a torment of unbelievable proportions, creates an atmosphere of disposability. One character is introduced, then tossed aside. While this is symbolic of war, it is also a done-to-death symbolic device.
1.5 out of 5.0 Southern Kamikazes.