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.
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.