Schiff paints a vivid portrait of a demagogue who was also a decorous man of ideals, acknowledging Adams’s innovative, extralegal activities as well as his personal virtues ... Any book from the Pulitzer Prize-winning Schiff is reason for excitement ... Brisk ... Schiff writes beautifully and lyrical passages provide a great deal of reading pleasure ... Filled with fun facts.
The first two-thirds of The Revolutionary make for riveting, suspenseful and even laugh-out-loud reading ... A vivid and evocative writer, Schiff excels in her portrayal of Boston in its agony and anger ... As a biography, The Revolutionary is incomplete, but as a portrait of an activist, it's superb.
... charged ... Schiff illuminates how well in advance of Washington, Jefferson, Franklin or John Adams (his more prominent cousin) Samuel Adams strategized, wrote and wrangled the American Revolution into inevitability ... not merely a dutiful exhumation of a poorly remembered Founding Father, it's a thrilling, timely account of how the American Revolution happened ... is informed on every page by scholarship, but Schiff, as Adams himself did, knows how to hold an audience.
Lacking new documents from Adams, Schiff settles for recounting the famous events of colonial resistance in Boston ... Schiff never quite knows whether to admire or distrust the elusive yet ubiquitous Adams. She praises his financial integrity, which kept him poor; his principled aversion to slavery; and his attention to common people. But Schiff feels uneasy with his suspicious monomania that rejected any 'peace and quiet' in governance ... Concentrating on just a dozen years, 1763 to 1775, Schiff devotes less than a 10th of her book to the last third of Adams’s life. That disproportion slights the postwar failure of his push to make a Christian Sparta among citizens more devoted to making money and buying consumer goods. It is an oddly truncated biography that says nothing about Adams’s abortive crusade, during the 1780s, to discredit a Boston social club called Sans Souci, where the city’s new elite pursued pleasure rather than virtue ... A gifted popular writer, Schiff deftly describes the surfaces of people and places, setting a shiny stage for Adams. But she balks at probing the sources of his relentless challenge to power as a threat to liberty ... Schiff also declines to assess Adams’s legacy for us today. More than anyone, he worked a conspiracy theory into our national origins. Ever since, discontented people have claimed a mandate to champion an imperiled liberty against some powerful, secretive cabal. In Adams’s time, such fears helped create a republic. Now that dread threatens to subvert our republic in favor of populist authoritarianism. So, should we celebrate or mourn what Adams bequeathed to us? Schiff does not say.
Terrific ... The effect is electrifying, and Schiff writes with keen insight and wit throughout. By the end of The Revolutionary: Samuel Adams, attentive readers will vibrate with questions about the parallels between Adams’ political era and our own.
Revelatory and frequently riveting ... Schiff vividly recounts major events in the lead-up to the Revolutionary War, including the Stamp Act Crisis, the Boston Massacre, and the Boston Tea Party, and draws incisive sketches of Loyalist governor Thomas Hutchinson, Patriot lawyer James Otis, and others. Fast-paced and enlightening, this is a must-read for colonial history buffs.
This is a meticulously researched and often eloquent work of historical biography, but it’s an occasionally dry cerebral exercise, lacking some of the author’s typical storytelling verve. Still, Schiff offers a welcome, fresh study featuring notions of liberty and democracy that feel particularly relevant in today’s consistently tumultuous political landscape ... A sturdy portrait of Samuel Adams for our times.