I read this for a local non-fiction book club. The book's title is something of a misnomer as it really covers the events in the Boston area from theI read this for a local non-fiction book club. The book's title is something of a misnomer as it really covers the events in the Boston area from the Boston Tea Party of late 1773 until the British evacuated the city in early 1776. The Battle of Bunker Hill (really Breed's Hill) is a major part of the book, but so are Lexington and Concord. Joseph Warren and Thomas Gage are the main characters, but there is a wide supporting cast many of whom will be unfamiliar to casual readers.
This book tries to strikes a balance between scholarly history and popular history. The lack of attention given to some of the more famous incidents like the Boston Tea Party and Paul Revere's Ride may come as a surprise, but Philbrick is trying to keep the focus on what he thinks matters. He touches on many people and events that I was unfamiliar with and looks at the failed efforts (sometimes secretive ones) to peacefully resolve problems. This book isn't afraid to point out reprehensible behavior by the Americans. It does an interesting job of trying not to take sides, including referring to both sides by positive terms: Patriots and Loyalists.
Despite the many positives, I can't give this book a really high rating. The book is only about 300 pages with a brevity on some subjects that is occasionally frustrating. I was particularly disappointed when the question of who fired first at Lexington Green is brushed off with the literary equivalent of a shoulder shrug. While the length hurts the depth a bit, I also found parts of the book a bit dull. However, there's nothing terrible and I might give this 3 1/2 stars if I could.
Overall, good but not great. Mildly recommended....more
This book took me nearly a year to finish, but that has nothing to do with the quality of the book. I started and stopped twice, putting it down bothThis book took me nearly a year to finish, but that has nothing to do with the quality of the book. I started and stopped twice, putting it down both times with regret, but having other books become higher priority due to presentations and research.
This is a single volume Pulitzer winning biography of George Washington's entire life - surveyor, plantation owner, husband, commander of the Continental Army, first President of the United States, father of his country, deified and mythologized in the more than 200 years since his death as much as any American has ever been. 165 pages cover Washington up to the American Revolution, 300+ cover the American Revolution, and 350+ pages cover the rest of his life including two terms as President.
Chernow hits it out of the park with possibly the best biography I have ever read. The writing is good, striking the right balance of readability and scholarly. Chernow feels reasonably unbiased: he clearly has a positive opinion of Washington, but is willing to criticize his mistakes. The issue of slavery is handled in way balanced between our modern understanding of the immorality of the institution with an recognition of the times in which Washington lived - a question that Washington grappled with much of his life. Most of all, Chernow captures Washington's complexities and shows him as complex individual: a man ambitious yet principled; mindful of appearances and self-conscious about his finances and lack of education; enjoying the limelight to some degree yet very private about some things and often longing to be left alone with his plantation; he who enjoyed the attention of the ladies yet was devoted to his wife. A man (and his wife) who had to deal with the death of a great many close relatives and a difficult mother.
Washington strikes me as a more grounded Jefferson. Yet Jefferson and Washington found themselves on very opposite views on early American politics. Anyone who thinks our Founding Fathers had a grand unified vision of our country will be clearly shown otherwise. Furthermore, Chernow demonstrates Washington as a dedicated Federalist with good reasons for being so - Alexander Hamilton's colleague not his puppet. In short, Washington's frustrations with squabbling colonies/states before and during the American Revolution made him an advocate for a strong central government.
Highest possibly recommendation. I learned a great deal. Don't be dissuaded by the 800 page length....more