To 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.
... balanced, elegantly written, and massively researched ... Combining apt quotation with flowing and precise original language, Atkinson describes military encounters that, though often unbearably grim, are evoked in vivid and image-laden terms ... His profiles of American and English statesmen and soldiers are fair and sharply etched. His treatment of the elderly Benjamin Franklin, especially his diplomacy in Paris, is masterful and funny ... Aided by fine and numerous maps, this is superb military and diplomatic history and represents storytelling on a grand scale.
... an enchantingly seductive account of the war, from the Battle of Lexington (1775) to the Battle of Princeton (1777), and is chock full of momentous events and larger-than-life characters. Perfect material for a storyteller as masterly as Mr. Atkinson ... stellar prose and 24 exquisite maps ... With so much action involving so many in disparate places, a lesser writer might lose readers along the way. But Mr. Atkinson weaves it all together seamlessly, bringing us with him. Pithy character sketches—reminiscent of 18th-century historians David Hume and Edward Gibbon, both of whom Mr. Atkinson cites—bring the dead to life ... Mr. Atkinson commands great powers of description ... The paragraphs can, at times, be a bit rhythmically formulaic. But the narrative is the stuff of novels ... Mr. Atkinson’s facts are drawn from a wealth of manuscript and printed sources. He quotes aptly and with acumen. Still, some may find this war-centered account rather too dismissive of Revolutionary ideas ... Professional historians occasionally dismiss popular historians who attract large reading audiences. Rick Atkinson is no interloper to be dismissed. His jargon-free books regularly top best-seller lists but also win critical acclaim. Of course, it is difficult to envision a definitive account of the American Revolution. But that awareness only heightens one’s appreciation of Mr. Atkinson’s achievement here, and one’s anticipation for the next two volumes of his Revolution Trilogy.
The author, a prizewinning American military historian, is never afraid to digress; he interrupts meticulous battle narratives with detours about the treatment of smallpox ... This is not a book for anyone in a hurry. Atkinson takes his time, but there’s delight in all that detail ... Atkinson is a superb researcher, but more importantly a sublime writer. On occasion I reread sentences simply to feast on their elegance ... In his previous life Atkinson was probably a Romantic poet.
This book is, in a word, fantastic. It offers all the qualities that we have come to expect from the author: deep and wide research, vivid detail, a blend of voices from common soldiers to commanders, blazing characterizations of the leading personalities within the conflict and a narrative that flows like a good novel.
The story never loses its power to amaze ... naturally a triumph, the first salvo in what promises to be the definitive history of the American Revolution. It’s scrupulously researched and warmly, endlessly readable, a book to hand both to Revolution aficionados and newcomers to the subject. It has no pre-ordained heroes or villains, but it teems with memorably three-dimensional characters. Even so crowded a field as Revolution studies must now make room.
Bringing the Revolutionary War out of the shadows may well require a writer with Atkinson’s superb skills, displayed with such power in his acclaimed World War II trilogy. The war for independence has lost ground in the national imagination to the Civil War, a struggle between brothers memorable for its sheer barbarity, photographic record and issues of equality and states’ rights that still resonate today ... The author uses carefully drawn detail to make riveting a story we think we already know ... two more superb books to anticipate from Atkinson on the long struggle yet to come.
Atkinson wastes no time reminding us of his considerable narrative talents. The opening pages of the prologue drip with detail ... Atkinson is not unique in this attention to detail, but to it he adds his well-developed sense of geography and how it shapes every story, not least the story of a military campaign ... It is no small feat to track, and then to convey, how many knee buckles the French smuggled into American ports to help equip the struggling cause. Atkinson is also keenly alive to the British side of the story, and he adeptly shifts the reader from an American to a British perspective ... What The British Are Coming lacks is an argument and a revolution. In one sense this is intentional and acceptable. Atkinson has chosen to tell the story of the war, not the political, ideological and ultimately constitutional shifts that preceded and followed it ... But even 'just' telling the story of the war demands more on why people kept fighting it ... only one paragraph on the campaign against the Cherokees in 1776. This matters ... For sheer dramatic intensity, however...there are few better places to turn.
Atkinson has written a brilliant military and diplomatic history of the war that created the greatest nation in the world ... he reminds us how far we have come in 244 years, but also how the issues surrounding the nation’s birth continue to perplex us to this day ... Atkinson covers the diplomacy with as much precision as the battles. There will be many 'how interesting, I never knew that' observations as readers sink their teeth into this opening volume. Detailed history made readable and entertaining is an unbeatable combination. Atkinson’s book promises to portray the American Revolution in a new and vivid account for any student of America’s creation.
What comes shining through on page after page of this book is that a sizeable portion of the population of the colonies (perhaps a third or more) thought of themselves as a separate people, a separate nation. For them, there was no turning back to direct rule by London ... The British Are Coming is history written in a grand style and manner. It leaves one anxiously awaiting the next two volumes.
Pulitzer Prize winner Atkinson replicates his previous books’ success in this captivatingly granular look at the American Revolution ... By providing vivid portraits of even minor characters, Atkinson enables readers to feel the loss of individual lives on both sides of the conflict, and by providing memorable details he brings new life even to chapters of oft-told American history. Atkinson doesn’t shy away from noting the hypocrisy of the slave-owning founding fathers, and his mordant prose is another plus. This is a superlative treatment of the period.
... doesn’t disappoint ... There’s plenty of motion and carnage to keep the reader’s attention. Yet Atkinson also has a good command of the big-picture issues that sparked the revolt and fed its fire, from King George’s disdain of disorder to the hated effects of the Coercive Acts ... A sturdy, swift-moving contribution to the popular literature of the American Revolution.