PanThe New York Times Book ReviewTombstone is written in a distinctively American voice. Unfortunately, it’s the voice of Gabby Hayes. Attempts to evoke the period are distractingly strenuous ... Ellipses pimple sentences randomly and often, serving no purpose. The book rattles with clichés like a box of stink bombs ... Tombstone reads like a transcription of Drunk History without the funny parts ... An awkwardly written book can still succeed through new research or interpretations. And I welcome a familiar story told well. But bad writing and unoriginality are not, as Clavin might say, a match made on the high-water mark.
PositiveThe Washington PostGeorge Washington did not have wooden teeth. He had human teeth, which he bought from slaves, who pulled them from their own mouths...Here we see the strengths of this biography: the interweaving of the inner and outer man; a sensitivity to the impact of a seemingly minor matter; the juxtaposition of a civic saint with the trade in human flesh (or calcium, in this case). But the very intimacy of the story hints at this book\'s limitations. Like Washington\'s teeth, his life as told here is less than fully rooted in its surroundings ... Washington is a true achievement. A reader might agree with my criticisms yet thoroughly enjoy the book. That speaks to the triumph of Chernow\'s narrative structure, the depth of his research and how alive he is to the emotional content of dry material. In organically unifying Washington\'s private and public lives, he accomplishes a feat that eludes many biographers. And he propels readers forward. There were moments on my march to the end of his story on Page 817 when I thought he could have shortened the trip, yet I still felt that the writing was purposeful, not merely encyclopedic. He attains this despite an uneven prose style. At times, cliches and dead phrases rustle noisily on the path. Chernow pumps up descriptions as if he were Stan Lee writing about Spider-Man ... Chernow\'s goal is to humanize Washington. He succeeds handsomely, depicting an irreducibly complicated figure ... Unfortunately, Chernow doesn\'t really engage with the scholarship of Bernard Bailyn, Pauline Maier, Edward Countryman or the many other historians who have revealed so much about 18th-century America.
Ronald C. White
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review...[a] stately and thoroughly researched book ... hite details mistakes, but not flaws. He wants us to admire Grant — for good reason. This worthy book solidifies the positive image amassed in recent decades, blotting out the caricature of a military butcher and political incompetent engraved in national memory by Jim Crow era historians ... He pays less attention to the mounting victories of white supremacists, as Attorney General Edwards Pierrepont and others in the cabinet undermined Grant’s position. Similarly, White praises Grant’s assimilationist 'peace policy' toward American Indians, but skips over the climactic wars fought under his aegis ... I wish that American Ulysses delved more deeply into Grant’s contradictions, yet agree with its final tally. White delineates Grant’s virtues better than any author before, and they outweighed his flaws.