For those that enjoy an educated and nuanced view of revolutionary history, Ellis' book provided some interesting insight into the settings, characterFor those that enjoy an educated and nuanced view of revolutionary history, Ellis' book provided some interesting insight into the settings, characters and stories surrounding a handful of our early "Founding Fathers." The chapters cover a wide breadth of topics, from Burr and Hamilton's famous duel, to the seldom mentioned precursor debate over slavery, and concluding with three intertwining chapters highlighting the legacy (and precedent) of our first three Presidents. While I enjoyed the insight and level of detail, I found Ellis' writing style to be lacking.
First and foremost, the chapters meandered consistently and frequently between subtopics. It was not uncommon to follow one tangent with yet another, and so on, only to return to the main point several pages later. Normally this would not be a problem, as I enjoy it when an author leads me carefully down a well-written path to a brilliant conclusion (which Ellis did do on occasion, to be fair.) That is, except for the rest.
Ellis made a seemingly obsessive point to overload each sentence with as many words as possible. It was as if there were some unconscious desire or quota to squeeze six to ten adjectives and adverbs between each noun and verb. As an casual reader, I found these choices more wasteful than not, and left me begging Ellis (sometimes aloud) to spend less time getting to the point.
This occured so often that it inflated each statement to the point where it seemed it might not end. So common was this phenomenon that I found myself stopping at the end of a sentence, re-reading the first statement and walking back through the entirety to reconcile it with the conclusion. These four and five-line "paragraph-sentences" were commonly an abrupt and annoying distraction, and the reason why it took me so long to finish this book.
With these things in mind, my only qualms with Mr. Ellis' book is in it's style and form. Admittedly, I am accustomed to more casual reading than engrossing myself in collegiate-level historic non-fiction. But I couldn't help but find Ellis' style to be unnecessarily verbose, somewhat rambling and a bit stuffy. Perhaps this is unfair, but I did enter into this book with the ambition of taking on something a bit more challenging than your standard pop fiction.
In truth I can not detract from the unique insight and perspective presented in this book. I found what he had to say to be intriguing, thoughtful and well-reasoned (albeit from the point of a novice history reader such as myself.) I was looking to learn more about our early revolutionary history, contrast the politics and problems of the day with the present, and receive a unique perspective into the beginnings of our nation. In that, he succeeded.
So I leave Mr. Ellis with three stars (i.e. "liked it,") just one star short of where I believe this book could have been. I would recommend this book to avid history readers (who have probably already read this book) or to anyone with a high tolerance of verbosity. ...more