PositiveThe Wall Street Journal[M]r. Duncan’s Hero of Two Worlds offers, in readable prose, much informative description alongside measured interpretation. The author’s sympathetic yet balanced and sensible rendering, some may think, mirrors Lafayette’s eventful life in a revolutionary age.
Patrick K O'Donnell
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalReaders who have enjoyed Mr. O’Donnell’s earlier books will not be disappointed with this one ... Mr. O’Donnell’s prose is efficient. The book’s 40 snappy chapters complement his fast-paced writing. He is at his best when it comes to warfare and its apparatus, on land and at sea. Maps help situate the action, as does additional context ... Outside the theater of war, occasional inconsistencies and minor errors creep in ... Still, those seeking a detailed, reliable account of the War for American Independence’s earliest years—one that embraces its nautical dimensions—will find it here.
Akhil Reed Amar
RaveThe Wall Street Journal... fascinating ... A masterly synthesis of history and law, Mr. Amar’s tome delivers, as the author describes it, a wide-angled, multigenerational narrative of \'the American constitutional project\' ... Unsurprisingly, some conversations—even important ones—are overlooked or underdeveloped. Critics may feel that Mr. Amar, a professor of law and political science at Yale University, plays down Native American and African-American voices. Others may believe he neglects the contributions of women ... Still, readers of The Words That Made Us will rightly marvel at its breadth and depth and at Mr. Amar’s scholarly acumen.
MixedThe Wall Street Journal... reminds us that as momentous events unfolded, the stuff of daily life carried on—courtships, marriages, family gatherings; houses were constructed, careers furthered, gout and consumption endured by some ... For all it has to offer, American Rebels also has its shortcomings. Despite its focus on family life and personal correspondence, some of its central figures—Adams, for instance—come across as flat. Descriptions are sometimes overdone or unconvincing, or both ... The book’s tone can be curtly homiletic, while its argument is unduly vague. Far too little is said about the history of ideas, especially political ones, while what is said is occasionally inconsistent or askew ... The bibliography upon which American Rebels draws is patchy and dated, reflecting a text that scavenges past historical works but tends not to engage with them. General readers may be better served by competing popular histories ... Many of these books, and others that go unnoticed by Ms. Sankovitch, convey a deeper sense of Boston’s rebels and the revolution they wrought.
George C Daughan
MixedThe Wall Street JournalLike Eric Hinderaker’s Boston’s Massacre (2017) and Nathaniel Philbrick’s Bunker Hill (2013), Mr. Daughan’s book sets its topic in historical context, giving the events leading up to April 19, 1775, as much attention as the battle itself. Another asset of this book—not to be undervalued—is its readability. Brief chapters of short paragraphs, several only a sentence long, move the action forward as in a fast-paced novel. With pages that are free of jargon and footnotes, there are few reminders to the reader that historical sources lurk behind the narrative ... Mr. Daughan illuminates the widening gulf between how things were seen by men on opposite sides of the Atlantic ... Mr. Daughan is at his most original when conveying military maneuvers and assessing strategies. A noted naval historian...he reminds us of the importance of sea power to the American Revolutionary era ... This good book is not without its shortcomings ... Some may find Mr. Daughan’s narrative too synthetic or even derivative. Primary sources are often quoted from others’ monographs, on which the author at times leans heavily ... For readers who desire to know those people’s lives better, Mr. [Robert A.] Gross’s Minutemen may still be the place to start.
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal...once briefly introduced, Zenger is surprisingly little in evidence for the book’s first half. Only slowly do we come to appreciate that, for Mr. Kluger, Zenger was a pawn in a game whose principal players were much more powerful than he ... Mr. Kluger—who is also a novelist—develops his account in layers without yielding his conclusions too soon.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalMany intelligent Americans held these ideas, including Jefferson and Madison, as well as prominent physicians such as Benjamin Rush and David Ramsay. They and many others get attention in Mr. Guyatt’s engaging narrative. His account is so all-embracing that at times it fragments into stories that overlap thematically but do not intersect...Mr. Guyatt’s argument might usefully be qualified in other ways. He shows that racial segregation found some support in the Enlightenment’s 'benevolent' concern for the well-being of America’s non-whites. But his account plays down other guiding ideas. Racial segregation often reflected a raw fear of racial mixing and racial warfare, as well as anxieties felt by the liberal and illiberal alike.
Fergus M. Bordewich
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalGracefully written, his narrative weaves in much about the members’ day-to-day lives. One learns interesting details about where they resided; with whom they dined; what they ate, and drank; their states of health, and many illnesses; diversions; reading habits and so on.