I've just read BRING THE JUBILEE by Ward Moore -- don't know why it took me so long to get around to this one, because I've always heard good things about it. Not sure when I acquired my copy, but it is an ancient British paperback ("First Four Square Edition November 1965" Price 3'6 but someone wrote 12p. on the cover in biro), so my best guess is I picked up at a jumble sale -- could have been at any time in the past 30 years.
I've often heard this book cited as one of the first/best Civil War alternate histories; I don't know how many of those were around when Ward Moore wrote it back in 1955 -- there are certainly loads of them around now. Understandably, as the American Civil War continues to be discussed, dissected, argued over and refought to this day.
Anyway, it surprised me. It was nothing like I expected. (I think the title made me think there would be lots of marching and battlefields.) It is set mostly in the 1930s-1940s in the defeated United States, a small, backward, impoverished and very racist country, and is a first-person account by a poor, bookish, very ordinary young man from the country -- mostly it is about how he stumbles towards maturity, falling into fraught, argumentative love-affairs with women who are far more ambitious and intelligent than he is (he knows it, too), until at last he settles down with a quiet, intuitive woman who adores him... although he still hardly knows what he wants to do with his life.
The theme of the book (I wouldn't exactly call it a moral, but it might be) seems to be that non-action is as powerful as action. Refusing to choose is also a choice; you can't opt out of life. Even trying to stand by and do nothing can have drastic consequences.
I did like the way the decisive moment that changes the outcome of the war was handled. It seemed as likely as what really happened, too, although I was less convinced by the resultant history as experienced not only by the defeated side, but the rest of the world. But it is a good read -- I'm glad I finally got around to it.