PositiveThe Washington Post...gripping ... Brands offers a nuanced middle path. In Brown and Lincoln, he presents two perfectly imperfect heroes who act in ways that both excite and disappoint us ... Still, the book makes a few small nostalgic missteps of its own. It’s unfortunate that Brands, like so many male biographers before him, refers to Lincoln’s wife as Mary Todd Lincoln, a formulation she never used ... particularly well timed, if not exactly urgent.
Joyce Lee Malcolm
RaveThe Washington PostJoyce Lee Malcolm knows this story, and yet she has embraced the thankless, if not Sisyphean, task of contextualizing America’s first traitor ... [George] Washington and Arnold were different, to be sure, but Malcolm enables readers to see the very real similarities between the two men ... The Tragedy of Benedict Arnold benefits from Russell Lea’s collection of Arnold’s war correspondence, published in 2008, and a relatively recent discovery of a cache of primary sources in Quebec. Malcolm has written a fine biography—the best in recent memory, in fact. But what Arnold really needs now is a miracle.
PositiveThe New YorkerThat’s the kind of book one expects upon a first glance at The Three Lives of James Madison: Genius, Partisan, President, by Noah Feldman. But Feldman, the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, at Harvard Law School, has written something else: a palliative for the age of Trump that never names the current President, as told through the political evolution of an important weirdo whose constant recalibrations enabled him, with increasing success, to fight epic battles with his own, founding-era 'haters and losers' ... Feldman is at once subtle and candid about the aptness of his narrative ... But the timely message is actually evergreen: the extreme partisanship that leaves us in varying states of frustration, alarm, and paranoia has always been a condition of the American experiment ... In what Feldman characterizes as the future President’s first life — the 'Genius' part — Madison laid the theoretical groundwork for a constitution for a republic.