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4.35 of 5 stars 4.35  ·  rating details  ·  207 ratings  ·  31 reviews
Acclaim for Lafayette

"I found Mr. Unger's book exceptionally well done. It's an admirable account of the marquis's two revolutions-one might even say his two lives-the French and the American. It also captures the private Lafayette and his remarkable wife, Adrienne, in often moving detail." -Thomas Fleming, author, Liberty!: The American Revolution

"Harlow Unger's Lafayette
Paperback, 452 pages
Published November 1st 2003 by Wiley (TP) (first published 2002)
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A Distant Mirror by Barbara W. TuchmanEleanor of Aquitaine by Alison WeirMarie Antoinette by Antonia FraserCitizens by Simon SchamaReflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke
French History
90th out of 208 books — 56 voters
John Adams by David McCulloughThe Ideological Origins of the American Revolution by Bernard BailynThe Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton1776 by David McCulloughAlexander Hamilton, American by Richard Brookhiser
Books on the American Founding
8th out of 60 books — 12 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 551)
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I am seriously considering throwing, "Lafayette," in as the middle name of one of my children. Usually when I read a biography I walk away a little disenchanted about the subject, but in this case I found that there once was someone in the universe who could truly be 'admired. How can one man just kick-ass his whole life? From a political, moral and strategic point of view? At 70 he was still kicking ass.

And yeah, I came close to crying at times too.

The only minor complaint is that I grew wear
Amazing man. I am so impressed by him. I feel he was placed in France by Providence. He had the thought like the Americans of his generation, not the French, but he needed to be there to help us win. His wife was so smart, compassionate and completely devoted to him. When she went to prsion with her daughters to be with him, I nearly fell out of my seat! I loved this book. I learned so much about the French Revolutions.
James Spurgeon
When I started reading this book, I already had a great respect for the Marquis de Lafayette. Upon conclusion, that respect has now grown into admiration. Here was a man, maybe the last true knight, who defied his king and came to fight in America in our revolution... not for fame and glory but because he truly believed in our glorious cause. He demanded no compensation for his service.

When General Washington took him to the army camp for the first time, Washington apologized for its squalor co
Unger, Harlow Giles. LAFAYETTE. ((2002). *****. This has got to be one of the best biographies of any historical figure I have read. The author manages to present the life and works of La Fayette in a well-written and compelling manner. It is always amazing to me that one man could have accomplished so much in one lifetime! LaFayette was born to a wealthy family in France, and upon the death of his father was the sole inheritor of his estates and wealth. It is estimated that he laid claim to an ...more
Eric Sevigny
Fascinating book on a man I knew practically nothing about before reading Chernow's Washington: A Life. That book made me want to read more about this defender of American-style liberty in the Old World. The book was an easy read, kept me interested, and taught me about the second half of Lafayette’s life. Raised many questions about the French Revolution for me.
I’m a first-time reader of Lafayette biographies, so I’ll acknowledge that Unger entertains by re-stating the obvious: Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert du Motier de la Fayette was a national, military, political and, indeed, a paternal hero to millions in America and France during the American and (several) French revolutions.
There is no doubt that, despite the fact that he was one of the richest French nobles of his time, he was publicly and privately dedicated to republican government and a
J.D. Brayton Brayton
Lafayette was without question one of the most important and heroic people of the 18th century. His pivotal role in the American Revolution is undeniable. Unger's magnificent and detailed biography illustrates the Marquis great sacrifices and dedication to the principles of freedom and democracy on both sides of the Atlantic. Sadly, his attempts to bring about similar social evolution in France were, at best, frustrating -at worst, disastrous.
UPON Finishing Unger's book "Lafayette"- all I can sa
An exceptional read to any lover of American and/or Military history. Harlow Giles Unger wonderfully weaves the life of Marquis de Lafayette through the various ages that he lived. His unbounded love for America and what she stands for, Lafayette was and forever will remain not only a Founding Father of our country, but a Patriot of Freedom for all mankind.
Jun 20, 2007 Kevin rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in US history or biography
Shelves: history
This book on Lafayette and Chernow's book on Hamilton are extraordinary profiles of two man who made essential contributions to the founding of the US. Their accomplishments and the breathe of their activities / interests are unbelievable.
Fascinating. This was an incredible man with an amazing story
about whom we learn very little in American history.
Mar 29, 2014 Bonnie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who lives in Virginia, or is interested in the American and/or French Revolution
Shelves: biography-memoir
I've been meaning to read this for awhile, but I've honestly been intimidated by the size of the book. And the first 100 pages or so did move a little slow. However, I live half an hour away from the site of Lafayette's victory at Yorktown, and the beginning of the book gave a great description of everything that occurred in the area. Lafayette has travelled more of the US than I have! When the French Revolution kicked off about a quarter of the way through the book, I was riveted. I wondered wh ...more
Unger delivers another packed biography in his assessment of Lafayette's role in two worlds. Focusing on his role in both of the major revolutions in the eighteenth century in the British colonies and the United States the author seeks to place Lafayette in the world. Lafayette is heralded as the great white knight who sprang from the old world to save the new world, only to not have a place in that new world. Overall this is a fascinating thesis on the changing values of liberalism particularly ...more
Aug 25, 2013 Bob rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: history
This was the first book I've ever read about the Marquis de Lafayette, and I learned a lot. He was a fascinating character, with a story almost unique in its heroism and its ups and downs. He was certainly a polarizing figure, an odd character who was raised in the most extreme trappings of old-Europe wealth and privilege, and became one of the primary proponents of what we would today recognize as a "constitutional, liberal democracy" as embodied in the founding of the United States. It's tragi ...more
Bob Entwisle
Overall, I enjoyed this book and it's a decent introduction to the time period and the American and French Revolutions. If you are looking for an introductory book on these subjects with fast moving narrative, you should enjoy it.

However, there is an enormous lack of objectivity and the book is filled with hero worship. In celebrating the greatness of Lafayette, it at times gets tedious. For example, there are lengthy sections describing numerous banquets and parades that I found myself skippin
Marc Shoemaker
I wanted to like this book, and maybe I should have given it another star, but in the end it was one more breathless, uncritical Lafayette biography. I've been looking for a good Lafayette bio for years, and when I found this one in a bookstore at Yorktown I thought that it might have been what I was looking for. Unfortunately Unger overpraises Lafayette and often overlooks his faults. He portrays him as a devoted husband in spite of his womanizing, for instance, while the language he uses overl ...more
When the Maquis de Lafayette died, America went into the kind of mourning it had only experienced once before, at the death of George Washington. Indeed, the President at the time, Andrew Jackson, expressly ordered the same military honours as Washington had received. Every city in the land held memorial services; flags were lowered to half-mast; every officer in the army and navy wore black armbands for six months; Congress passed a joint resolution expressing its sorrow; all Americans were ask ...more
Buddy Don
The life of Lafayette makes for a great read. I enjoyed this bio as much as I would have a novel (which I tend to prefer), and my only doubt about it is that there is literally nothing negative about Lafayette in the entire book. OTOH, the man led an amazing life and was one of the braver and stronger men I've ever read about. The book is beautiful, with color pictures, great bibliography, decent index and notes, but OK maps (I love for maps to accompany descriptions of military campaigns).
Claire Baxter
Very well-written and entertaining account. It was interesting to read about the French Revolution from a completely different perspective to what you normally get. Only criticism is that a couple of times I questioned the author's balance as he seemed very pro-Lafayette and not always partial. But that didn't stop me from enjoying the book and learning a lot about a man who was at the forefront of two of the major events of the 18th century.
Karen Giauque
I knew just about nothing about Lafayette and now I know a lot! He did great things for the United States during the American Revolution. He joined with and followed George Washington throughout the war, then returned to France, hoping to bring the same kind of constitutional freedom to his native land, but instead, the Jacobins got the guillotine busy and went on their bloody rampage. To his dying day, Lafayette was loved in America, but not in France, despite his noble efforts to help the coun ...more
Lafayette was an incredibly engaging and detailed read about someone who was pivotal to the American Revolution but that I never knew much about, if anything. The book used his prolific letters and it was incredibly compelling to read about him and the events of his life in his own words and the words of some of the most famous Americans in history. If you are interested in American history or just enjoy a great biography, this is a great one to check out.
Barbara Lovejoy
I knew that Lafayette was a great man but this book helped me to realize how incredibly great he was. I also learned much about his wife that I didn't know. I grew to love this family as I read the book --they became so real to me that I even shed tears when Lafayette's wife died. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to learn more about French history as well as our own ...and the influence Lafayette had on both.
Jerry Landry
Wow -- I have never felt such passion from a biography as was expressed in this one. Lafayette's story of triumph and horror, of reaching the pinnacle of success only to be cruelly shot down time and again, is one that resonates in the reader's mind and heart. Unger does an excellent job of writing about "Our Marquis," and I can't recommend this book enough. Truly one of the best I've read this year.
Diana Nguyen
Lafayette led an amazing life; this book spans his entire lifetime. It covers the American Revolution all the way to the French Revolution. Furthermore, the events are depicted in a fashion appealing to readers, history buffs or not. The only qualm I have is that Unger alomost worships Lafayette. All os Lafayette's flaws are glided over as if they never existed. Even so, I highly recommend this book!
Best biography I've read.
Dale Wade
Wow! Why do we not still celebrate this man as a nationl treasure? Well written. Only 4 stars because of the over uase of correspondance early on between Washington -Lafayette. Still, i liked the writing style, especially the poignant use of emotion. Merci beaucoup.
Gary Kay
A very entertaining piece of popular history that focuses not only on his role in the American Revolution but also his influence on the French Revolution as well. You'll finish this book wondering why you learned next to nothing about him in high school.
Ron Turner
The author engaged in hero worship a little too much, but otherwise I liked it. He led such a long and fascinating life. I didn't realize how big of a role he played during the French Revolution. I was also impressed with his brave wife.
Loretta Matson
Very readable and entertaining. I hadn't felt before that I had the whole picture of the French Revolution, but of course, Lafayette lived it. You can read this book in a weekend, and feel prepared to delve into more detailed histories.
A good review of Lafayette's life. Goes into depth on his role in the American Revolution and French Revolution. His family life is also covered to some extent, but mostly post American Revolution.
we all should read this story in our amazing accoutn of a complete life
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“Lafayette was a splendid man...with a marvelous, self-depreciating sense of humor. He was, for example, balding noticeably when he reached an Indian outpost...and he calmed his wife's anxieties by noting that "I cannot lose what I do not have.” 0 likes
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