MixedThe Washington PostBrands offers a fast-paced, often riveting account of the military and political events leading up to the Declaration of Independence and those that followed during the war ... This focus on individual experiences and actions allows a reader the comfort of revisiting old friends whose life histories are twice-told tales, while also providing introductions to less well-known but equally interesting men ... The author deftly narrates the military action of the Great War for Empire and then offers a vivid account of the protests against the new, harsher British colonial policies that end in revolution. While there is little new in his account, he tells the story well ... Brands peppers his narrative with anecdotes that sharpen his portraits of the book’s leading figures and events ... But, in the end, Brands’s heavy reliance on the perceptions and actions of leading figures of the era leaves much of the story untold ... Brands’s top-down approach may explain his failure to answer the central questions he asks in his prologue ... Brands does his readers a service by reminding them that division, as much as unity, is central to the founding of our nation. One wishes he had limned that division with a sharper pen.
Nancy Isenberg and Andrew Burstein
PositiveThe Washington PostAfter the bold premise and broad promise of the opening chapter, the book that follows is a surprisingly traditional political biography, covering the familiar ground of political campaigns, diplomatic missions and major crises during the two Adams administrations ... The strength of The Problem of Democracy lies in its masterful intertwining of the narrative of the two Adamses’ lives. This allows us to see how profoundly John Adams shaped his son’s intellectual and moral values and how intensely invested he was in every aspect of John Quincy’s career ... The Problem of Democracy offers a final warning to its readers who live in an era of \'alternate truths\' and blind devotion to charismatic leaders: Personal charisma should not substitute for \'proven judgment, a sense of fairness, breadth of knowledge, and administrative command.\'
PositiveThe Washington Post\"... a tension-filled and riveting account of the alliance that assured American independence ... Philbrick is a master of narrative, and he does not disappoint as he provides a meticulous and often hair-raising account of a naval war between France and England and a land war that pitted American and French troops against British regulars and Loyalist volunteers ... Not everyone will find Philbrick’s detailed coverage of naval and military engagements easy to follow or fully engaging. A landlubber like me felt overwhelmed by some of the nautical language. This should not deter readers, however, for despite the author’s obvious relish in recounting the battles on sea and land, those engagements are not the entire focus of the book. Philbrick has a second, perhaps more compelling theme: how the character of men shapes the history they make ... In In the Hurricane’s Eye Philbrick occasionally succumbs to the lure of historical fortune-telling that marred his previous book ... But such pronouncements — offered largely, one suspects, for dramatic effect — do not detract from the authentic drama of the story Philbrick has to tell, a drama that ultimately centers not on nature but on Washington.\
Fergus M. Bordewich
MixedThe New York TimesFergus M. Bordewich has transformed the recent multivolume collection of sources on the First Federal Congress into a lively narrative ... Despite its readability, The First Congress has almost as many problems as the Congress itself had. Its fast pace, for example, means that everything is covered but that nothing is covered in all its complexity.