Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Lafayette” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


4.34  ·  Rating Details  ·  301 Ratings  ·  41 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)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Lafayette, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Lafayette

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
102nd out of 241 books — 65 voters
John Adams by David McCulloughThe Ideological Origins of the American Revolution by Bernard Bailyn1776 by David McCulloughThe Federalist Papers by Alexander HamiltonCommon Sense by Thomas Paine
Books on the American Founding
14th out of 75 books — 23 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 993)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Feb 02, 2009 Tom rated it it was amazing
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
May 12, 2016 Colleen rated it liked it
Shelves: napoleon, history
Sometimes it can hard to weigh a book when you like the subject so much, it's easy to overlook certain flaws perhaps in your overall enthusiasm. I enjoyed this book a great deal, because you can't help but like Lafayette, but so does the author. It's that lack of impartiality that I think detracts from it overall though. He mentions how vast the Lafayette souvenir and trinket industry (which exploded in the US) and most of the idealized portraits looked absolutely nothing like him--and you can't ...more
James Spurgeon
Aug 08, 2014 James Spurgeon rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 28, 2010 Rebekah rated it it was amazing
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.
Jan 04, 2011 Tony rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, biography
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
Marc Shoemaker
Jun 12, 2012 Marc Shoemaker rated it it was ok
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
Ross Cohen
Jun 25, 2016 Ross Cohen rated it it was amazing
An excellent telling of an excellent life. Lafayette was one of a kind and incredibly accomplished. If the author were to have claimed Lafayette could spit rhymes a-la-Lin-Manuel Miranda, I wouldn't have been surprised.
Bob Entwisle
May 29, 2013 Bob Entwisle rated it liked it
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
Grady McCallie
May 01, 2016 Grady McCallie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm guessing that this book has seen a small surge of sales as a follow on from the success of the musical Hamilton, as a subset of folks who have read Chernow's biography of Hamilton begin wanting to know more about the Marquis de Lafayette as well. At any rate, that's how I came to it, and Unger's biography more than delivers.

Unger divides his story - the Marquis' life - into two parts: the American Revolution and the French Revolution. That's not the only way to divide it - another approach
Sep 06, 2015 Rayan rated it it was amazing
Born in Chavaniac, in the province of Auvergne in south central France, Lafayette came from a wealthy landowning family. He followed its martial tradition, and was commissioned an officer at age 13. He became convinced that the American cause in its revolutionary war was noble, and travelled to the New World seeking glory in it. There, he was made a major general, though initially the 19-year-old was not given troops to command. Wounded during the Battle of Brandywine, he still managed to organi ...more
Oct 09, 2014 Rick rated it really liked it
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
Apr 13, 2015 J.D. Brayton rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 12, 2015 Dili rated it it was amazing
Basically, I read this book in two sittings and stayed up until 2 am to finish it. While I agree with some other reviews that I had to skim through a few of the correspondences and thought the entire book very complimentary to Lafayette (maybe a little too much, meaning there's perhaps a bias somewhere) - it was well-written and I obviously couldn't put it down.

I also had no idea the scope of the Marquis' involvement in the Revolutionary War, the French Revolution, the later rebellions, and the
Mar 03, 2016 Nicole1999 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book is AMAZING!!!!!! Lafayette is such a little known historical figure from the American and French Revolutions but he totally deserves more attention. He is one of my most admired figures in history so much so that any future child of mine should have Lafayette as a middle name. I totally recommend this book because it reads like fiction and is a page turner. It was one of the best books I have ever read and it will become one of yours as well.
Eric Sevigny
Nov 15, 2015 Eric Sevigny rated it really liked it
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.
Feb 10, 2014 Jessica rated it really liked it
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 it was amazing
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.
Mar 31, 2010 Pajones rated it it was amazing
Fascinating. This was an incredible man with an amazing story
about whom we learn very little in American history.
Constantin Minov
Sep 24, 2015 Constantin Minov rated it it was amazing
Shelves: most-inspiring
This is a biography about a 19 year old french military officer who decided to escape from a mundane life and en-roll as a volunteer in the Continental Army to fight for independence in the American Revolution. With the support of french army, american won its independence and created the first constitution. Lafayette returned to France with hope to build a constitutional monarchy in his own country but he failed. This was also one of the causes of the french revolution, fall of bastille , march ...more
Mar 29, 2014 Bonnie rated it really liked it
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
Feb 04, 2012 Brian rated it it was amazing
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 really liked it
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
Oct 17, 2013 Caroline rated it it was amazing
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
May 03, 2015 Buddy Don rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, biography
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).
Jerome Stewart
Jan 23, 2016 Jerome Stewart rated it really liked it
Lafayette - the sleepy town in Louisiana - plays an important role in my life. But I never knew that much about the Marquis. Can this account be true? Can one person, starting from such a young age, have lived such a monumental life? He personifies honor and chivalry. Without this Frenchman, our country might never have survived its infancy. This story deserves attention.
Claire Baxter
Apr 18, 2015 Claire Baxter rated it it was amazing
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.
Apr 08, 2016 Alex rated it really liked it
Good overview of the life of Lafayette, with emphasis on his time in the American and French revolutions. A few glaring errors (such as the Waterloo taking place in 1820) and a periodic undercurrent of anti-French bias keep it from getting 5 stars.
Chris Langer
Jan 05, 2016 Chris Langer rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Finished this stellar book about one of my favorite people in history last night. "Our Marquis", as George Washington called him, was truly a great hero for the American people. Lafayette's love of liberty would help inspire the French to revolution, but not to the manner he envisioned. Anarchy would soon reign, and his refusal to take executive power would have adverse consequences on France and Europe abroad. Lafayette's selfless nature and the sacrifices he made for the young United States ma ...more
Oct 22, 2012 Karen rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 10, 2012 Melissa rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
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.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 33 34 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Jefferson and the Ordeal of Liberty
  • John Jay: Founding Father
  • Henry Knox: Visionary General of the American Revolution
  • Daniel Boone: The Life and Legend of an American Pioneer
  • The Founding Fathers Reconsidered
  • John Paul Jones: A Sailor's Biography
  • Washington's General: Nathanael Greene and the Triumph of the American Revolution
  • Adopted Son: Washington, Lafayette, and the Friendship that Saved the Revolution
  • Jefferson Davis, American
  • Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr
  • The Drillmaster of Valley Forge: The Baron de Steuben and the Making of the American Army
  • Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution
  • Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America
  • Victory at Yorktown: The Campaign That Won the Revolution
  • Napoleon: A Political Life
  • Ethan Allen: His Life and Times
  • Thomas Paine: Enlightenment, Revolution, and the Birth of Modern Nations
  • The Rise of Napoleon Bonaparte

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »

“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
More quotes…