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Monday, April 11, 2011

It's Monday, What are You Reading? Washington by Ron Chernow

It's Monday, What are You Reading?
Washington: A Life 
by Ron Chernow

This is the twenty-first entry for this meme, suggested by Sheila@ One Persons Journey Through A World of Books.

I finally finished Team of Rivals on my kindle and am now taking on Washington: A Life, by Ron Chernow... I also have this in hard cover, but it is heavy... so I'll be reading it on the Kindle, in waiting rooms and while my wife is shopping... another good read, it appears from the early pages.

George Washington, of course, was a contemporary of my 5th great grandfather, Sergeant Major William Kinnick, who served under Washington (and a few intermediate commanders, of course) in the Revolutionary War. I am currently researching and working on a first draft of a non-fictiion account of the world this ancestor inhabited. Chernow's book is certainly one additional excellent reference.

Note, announced April 18, 2011: Pulitzer Prize for Biography to Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow, "a sweeping, authoritative portrait of an iconic leader learning to master his private feelings in order to fulfill his public duties."

A Description from Publishers Weekly on the Amazon site:

In his introduction, veteran biographer Chernow is clear about his goals. Using the recent "explosion of research," he wants to render George Washington "real" and "credible," to replace "frosty respect" with "visceral appreciation." In many respects, Chernow succeeds. He gives us a Washington who starts with limited education and means and, through a remarkable combination of timely deaths, an incredible capacity for hard work, a shrewd marriage, astonishing physical hardiness and courage, a propensity for land speculation, and a gift for finding influential patrons, transforms himself into a soldier, well-to-do planter, local official, and eventually the only real choice to command the Continental army, preside over the Constitutional Convention, and serve as the first president. Chernow makes familiar scenes fresh (like the crossing of the Delaware) and expertly brings the provisional revolutionary and early Republican eras to life. Along the way, however, he mistakes "visceral" for ardent; while he never hides Washington's less than saintly moments or shirks the vexed question of slavery, he often seems to ignore the data he's collected. Examples of shady dealing are quickly followed by tales of Washington's unimpeachable ethics or impeccable political savvy. At times it feels as if Chernow, for all his careful research and talent for synthesis, is in the grip of a full-scale crush. The result is a good book that would have been great if better edited, and if Chernow had trusted that Washington's many merits, even when accompanied by his faults, would speak for themselves.


I've previously read 10-12 biographies of Washington, so I look forward to how this one more may, or may not, be different, or add to our better understanding of this "Father of our Country."

Happy Reading,

Bill  ;-)

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