Valiant Ambition: Book summary and reviews of Valiant Ambition by Nathaniel Philbrick

Valiant Ambition

George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution

by Nathaniel Philbrick

Valiant Ambition by Nathaniel Philbrick X
Valiant Ambition by Nathaniel Philbrick
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Book Summary

From the New York Times bestselling author of In The Heart of the Sea comes a surprising account of the middle years of the American Revolution, and the tragic relationship between George Washington and Benedict Arnold.

In September 1776, the vulnerable Continental Army under an unsure George Washington (who had never commanded a large force in battle) evacuates New York after a devastating defeat by the British Army. Three weeks later, near the Canadian border, one of his favorite generals, Benedict Arnold, miraculously succeeds in postponing the British naval advance down Lake Champlain that might have ended the war. Four years later, as the book ends, Washington has vanquished his demons and Arnold has fled to the enemy after a foiled attempt to surrender the American fortress at West Point to the British. After four years of war, America is forced to realize that the real threat to its liberties might not come from without but from within.

Valiant Ambition is a complex, controversial, and dramatic portrait of a people in crisis and the war that gave birth to a nation. The focus is on loyalty and personal integrity, evoking a Shakespearean tragedy that unfolds in the key relationship of Washington and Arnold, who is an impulsive but sympathetic hero whose misfortunes at the hands of self-serving politicians fatally destroy his faith in the legitimacy of the rebellion. As a country wary of tyrants suddenly must figure out how it should be led, Washington's unmatched ability to rise above the petty politics of his time enables him to win the war that really matters.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Philbrick's deep scholarship, nuanced analysis, and novelistic storytelling add up to another triumph."—Publishers Weekly

"A lively account of our Revolution's most reviled figure." - Kirkus

"An engrossing narrative of the war's most difficult years... Philbrick argues that the quarrelsome, divided Americans needed Arnold's perfidy as much as they did Washington's greatness to unify their new nation. He pushes aside the patriotic myth to unveil the war's messy reality - and it's still a rousing adventure." - BookPage

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Author Information

Nathaniel Philbrick Author Biography

Photo by Ellen Warner

Nathaniel Philbrick grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and earned a BA in English from Brown University and an MA in America Literature from Duke University, where he was a James B. Duke Fellow. He was Brown University's first Intercollegiate All-American sailor in 1978, the same year he won the Sunfish North Americans in Barrington, Rhode Island. After working as an editor at Sailing World magazine, he wrote and edited several books about sailing, including The Passionate Sailor, Second Wind, and Yaahting: A Parody.     In 2000, Philbrick published the New York Times bestseller In the Heart of the Sea, which won the National Book Award for nonfiction. The book is the basis of the Warner Bros. motion picture Heart of ...

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