Differences is a wonderfully refreshing novel about the Anti-Bellum South and the Civil War. One of the first post Civil War novels, it has a different perspective on the period. It is a human document that comments on the foibles and failures of men and women in a most trying time. Its thrilling and compassionate battle and peacetime scenes anticipate by 70 years the dramatic impact of Gone of the Wind.
Differences contrasts men and women of the South and the North, of Jews and non Jews, of northern Jews and southern Jews well integrated into their respective environments, of various types of Europeans in America and their counterpart immigrants of one, two, or three generations. Though evincing no overt critique of political attitudes or the economic structure of slavery, nor any recriminations for the terrible war just fought, Differences describes relations with slaves, those of the house and those of the fields, their loyalties to good masters, and their friendship to decent whites. Crossing not only racial boundaries, but class distinctions as well, Mayer notes that despite pre-war differences between white aristocrats and white “trash” both were quick to anger and revenge and would unite in a post-war insurgency against the newly freed slaves and their exploitive carpetbagger allies.