Washington: Book summary and reviews of Washington by Ron Chernow

Washington

A Life

By Ron Chernow

Washington
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  • Published in USA  Oct 2010,
    904 pages.

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Book Summary

In Washington: A Life celebrated biographer Ron Chernow provides a richly nuanced portrait of the father of our nation. With a breadth and depth matched by no other one-volume life of Washington, this crisply paced narrative carries the reader through his troubled boyhood, his precocious feats in the French and Indian War, his creation of Mount Vernon, his heroic exploits with the Continental Army, his presiding over the Constitutional Convention, and his magnificent performance as America's first president.

Despite the reverence his name inspires, Washington remains a lifeless waxwork for many Americans, worthy but dull. A laconic man of granite self-control, he often arouses more respect than affection. In this groundbreaking work, based on massive research, Chernow dashes forever the stereotype of a stolid, unemotional man. A strapping six feet, Washington was a celebrated horseman, elegant dancer, and tireless hunter, with a fiercely guarded emotional life. Chernow brings to vivid life a dashing, passionate man of fiery opinions and many moods. Probing his private life, he explores his fraught relationship with his crusty mother, his youthful infatuation with the married Sally Fairfax, and his often conflicted feelings toward his adopted children and grandchildren. He also provides a lavishly detailed portrait of his marriage to Martha and his complex behavior as a slave master.

At the same time, Washington is an astute and surprising portrait of a canny political genius who knew how to inspire people. Not only did Washington gather around himself the foremost figures of the age, including James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, but he also brilliantly orchestrated their actions to shape the new federal government, define the separation of powers, and establish the office of the presidency.

In this unique biography, Ron Chernow takes us on a page-turning journey through all the formative events of America's founding. With a dramatic sweep worthy of its giant subject, Washington is a magisterial work from one of our most elegant storytellers.

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Book Awards

  • award image Pulitzer Prize for Letters, Drama and Music, 2011

Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. With so much that can be said—and said positively—about this magisterial biography, it is difficult not to write a review as long as the book itself." - Booklist

"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." - Publishers Weekly

"Let's be clear: Washington is a true achievement…In organically unifying Washington's private and public lives, he accomplishes a feat that eludes many biographers." - The Washington Post

"This broadly and deeply researched work is a major addition to Washington scholarship—every era should have its new study of him—and it should appeal to informed lay readers and undergraduates interested in stepping beyond the typical textbook treatment." - Library Journal

"If Chernow's sense of historical context is sometimes superficial, his understanding of psychology is acute and his portraits of individuals memorable. Most readers will finish this book feeling as if they have actually spent time with human beings." - The New York Times Book Review

"A more ostentatiously regal leader could never have accomplished as much as this seemingly reluctant hero achieved." - The New York Times

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