MixedThe Washington PostPhilbrick’s reporting is cogent and impressively detailed as long as Washington remains the central character. We get Washington the monument more than the man, because that was the role he played at every stop ... If you are looking for a story that exposes the dark side of Washington’s struggle with slavery, the Ona Judge episode would be it. Philbrick shrewdly folds it into his narrative. He takes his responsibilities as a historian of Washington’s world more seriously than his role as a journalist of ours. With a few exceptions, most of the people he interviews are tour guides, reenactors and local historians, who help him paint his picture of 18th-century America ... A sizable number of citizens in the Southern states where Philbrick traveled were ardent believers in Donald Trump’s agenda, but they don’t make it into Philbrick’s narrative. There was a dramatic story to be told, contrasting the two presidents, and addressing the residual racism that endures in the wake of Washington’s personal minuet with slavery, our original sin. Philbrick either missed it or chose not to tell it, though multiple asides make it clear that he is fully aware of our ongoing struggle with racial equality.
RaveThe Boston GlobeHere a close first-person voice—intimate and reflective—excavates a remarkably underdiscussed section of Washington’s life ... Philbrick’s imagery of Washington traveling long distances by horse and carriage over narrow dirt roads through mud, rain, and America’s untouched forests reveals the fragile and delicate infrastructure of a new world ... Philbrick is selective with his empathy. In one breath, he admires Washington’s remarkable leadership under pressure despite regular bouts of anxiety. The next, he elaborates on the \'cold pocket of horror\' within Washington, the plantation-owning man ... Philbrick’s strongest descriptive moments arrive when juxtaposing grander welcome displays in state capitals, with humble offerings from small towns that suffered greatly from the war ... Philbrick is both the protagonist—speaking in the first-person throughout—and the omniscient narrator observing Washington from a distance. It’s a neat track, one that shows off Philbrick’s considerable narrative skills ... This book is quintessential Philbrick—a lively, courageous, and masterful achievement.
David Hackett Fischer
RaveNew York TimesDavid Hackett Fischer\'s new book, Washington\'s Crossing, is a highly realistic and wonderfully readable narrative of the same moment that corrects all the inaccuracies in the Leutze painting but preserves the overarching sense of drama ... Fischer, university professor at Brandeis University, demolishes several myths and misconceptions ... Fischer has devised a storytelling technique that combines old and new methods in a winning way ... Fischer\'s ability to combine the panoramic with the palpable is unparalleled in giving us a glimpse of what warfare back then was really like ... He gets somewhat carried away toward the end...But this is a mere quibble when measured against the larger achievement of Fischer\'s riveting narrative.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewTo say that Atkinson can tell a story is like saying Sinatra can sing ... Lurking behind all the assembled evidence, which Atkinson has somehow managed to read and digest in a remarkably short period of time, is a novelistic imagination that verges on the cinematic. Historians of the American Revolution take note. Atkinson is coming ... He brings with him a Tolstoyan view of war; that is, he presumes war can be understood only by recovering the experience of ordinary men and women caught in the crucible of orchestrated violence beyond their control or comprehension ... [Atkinson] is not a historical novelist, but rather a strikingly imaginative historian ... Atkinson pays only passing attention to this political side of the Revolutionary story, devoting more space to the policymakers in London than their counterparts in Philadelphia ... a major addition to that ongoing argument. A powerful new voice has been added to the dialogue about our origins as a people and a nation. It is difficult to imagine any reader putting this beguiling book down without a smile and a tear.
PositiveThe New York TimesTraub begins with the assumption that the career should be folded into the life, not the other way around. He therefore makes Adams’s journal his central source, the prism through which to view the man. He provides chapter-length accounts, for example, of the Monroe Doctrine and Adams’s argument before the Supreme Court defending African prisoners in the Amistad case. Some scholarly specialists might ask for more details, but I found his versions reliably thorough, blissfully bereft of jargon and nicely paced to blend with the private story.