Join BookBrowse today and get access to free books, our twice monthly digital magazine, and more.

Reviews of The General and Julia by Jon Clinch

The General and Julia

A Novel

by Jon Clinch

The General and Julia by Jon Clinch X
The General and Julia by Jon Clinch
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Nov 2023, 272 pages

    Jul 23, 2024, 272 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

Ulysses S. Grant reflects on the crucial moments of his life as a husband, a father, a general, and a president while writing his memoirs and reckoning with his complicated legacy in this epic and intimate novel from the author of the "masterly" (The New York Times Book Review) novel Marley.

Barely able to walk and rendered mute by the cancer metastasizing in his throat, Ulysses S. Grant is scratching out words, hour after hour, day after day. Desperate to complete his memoirs before his death so his family might have some financial security and he some redemption, Grant journeys back in time.

He had once been the savior of the Union, the general to whom Lee surrendered at Appomattox, a twice-elected president who fought for the civil rights of Black Americans and against the rising Ku Klux Klan, a plain farmer-turned-business magnate who lost everything to a Wall Street swindler, a devoted husband to his wife Julia and loving father to four children. In this gorgeously rendered and moving novel, Grant rises from the page in all of his contradictions and foibles, his failures and triumphs.

Moving from blood-stained battlefields to Gilded Age New York, the novel explores how Grant's own views on race and Reconstruction changed over time. Another work of "must-read modern literature" (Charles Frazier, New York Times bestselling author) from historical fiction master Jon Clinch, this evocatively crafted novel breathes fresh life into an American icon.

CHAPTER 1: 1843

The Canary

How large a box shall be required?

The canary is the smallest of creatures, three inches long if that. To take its precise measure would be indelicate regardless of his good intentions. So he bends to it upon its bed of linen, and he touches its cool, dry, brilliant feathers with his finger, and he subtly gauges its length against the count of his knuckles. That will be measurement enough.

What is its color? The very shade of a lemon.

How much does it weigh? Little more than its own last breath.

Birdie's sudden passing breaks her heart. At sunup he was his usual cheery self, welcoming the morning to her bedroom with his repertoire of peeps and chirps and burbles. His song, his color—indeed, his very pulsing presence—were all so lovely and so familiar as to be utterly beneath notice. Now their absence pains her. His cage hangs empty, its black shadow a ragged latticework stain upon the blue wall.

Her father looks up from his soup plate, notes the ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!


BookBrowse Review


The novel presents an affecting portrait of a lesser-known president and his family ties, and Clinch creates an elegant flow between the past and present. The prose style is smooth and inconspicuous, with omniscient third-person narration that sticks largely to Grant's perspective but also gives glimpses into other characters' experience. As Clinch writes in a concluding Author's Note, figures from the past can be understood through "genuine moments of attention, imagination, and sympathy." That is the magic of biographical fiction: bringing real people and happenings to life in a way that allows us, as Clinch puts it, to "appreciate the hearts and minds of those who came before us."..continued

Full Review Members Only (766 words)

(Reviewed by Rebecca Foster).

Media Reviews

A sweeping, monumental portrait of Ulysses S. Grant…Paired with Clinch's elegant, assured prose, the result is dazzlingly good, evocatively crafted and emotionally resonant. Perfect for lovers of American history and historical fiction fans alike.

Christian Science Monitor, a Best Book of the Month Pick
Affecting...As the story shifts between Grant's arduous final days penning his memoirs and scenes from his life as war hero and president, a portrait emerges of realization, regret, and newfound humility.

Booklist (starred review)
Epic in perspective and feeling…sublime prose…Superb historical fiction.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
A graceful, moving narrative…affecting…an empathetic portrait of a towering figure.

Library Journal (starred review)
Clinch's compelling study conveys the complicated legacy of Grant, who had no pretense for pageantry, deeply loved his wife and children, and treated everyone with decent human kindness. A remarkable novel, utterly gripping.

Author Blurb Elizabeth Letts, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author of A Perfect Horse and The Ride of Her Life
Every once in a while I read a book that is so utterly fascinating that I can't stop talking about it. Jon Clinch's The General and Julia is that book. We meet Ulysses S. Grant as we've never seen him before—not just an American hero, but a loving husband, and a somewhat reluctant celebrity caught up in the razzamatazz of Gilded Age America. A love story, a compelling piece of American history, a page-turner, with a star-studded cast of characters—not since All the Light We Cannot See have I read such a perfect example of what historical fiction should be. I predict that every book club will soon be reading this book.

Author Blurb Robin Oliveira, author of My Name is Mary Sutter, the bestselling novel and winner of the Michael Shaara Award for excellence in Civil War Fiction
In a deft dialogue between the past and present, Jon Clinch presents General Grant as a humble man of deep integrity, who in the depth of grave illness revisits his many sacrifices, financial struggles, perceived failures and perilous triumphs as he writes his memoirs in a quest to save his family from financial ruin before he dies. My God, Jon Clinch can write. This story is luminous and palpable, and made me fall in love with the mastery of Jon Clinch, the writer, but also with Grant, just as a grateful nation once did. This is the best book I've read in an age.

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Mark Twain's Publication of Ulysses S. Grant's Memoirs

Ulysses S. Grant writing his memoirsAs recounted in Jon Clinch's The General and Julia, Samuel Clemens (who wrote under the alias Mark Twain) met President Ulysses S. Grant in the White House, introduced by a senator from Nevada. When the men crossed paths again after the end of Grant's presidency, they developed a friendship. Clemens frequently encouraged Grant to write his memoirs, but Grant always demurred, saying he wasn't a writer. That is, until financial ruin and a terminal cancer diagnosis made him fear for his wife Julia's future. Grant made arrangements with Century Magazine to write articles about Civil War battles, paid at $500 each. Century was also willing to publish his memoirs, but the standard terms of the contract—10% of royalties&mdash...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!


Read-Alikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The General and Julia, try these:

  • The Caretaker jacket

    The Caretaker

    by Ron Rash

    Published 2023

    About this book

    More by this author

    Told against the backdrop of the Korean War as a small Appalachian town sends its sons to battle, The Caretaker by award-winning author Ron Rash ("One of the great American authors at work today" —The New York Times) is a breathtaking love story and a searing examination of the acts we seek to justify in the name of duty, family, honor, and ...

  • Courting Mr. Lincoln jacket

    Courting Mr. Lincoln

    by Louis Bayard

    Published 2020

    About this book

    More by this author

    From the prizewinning author of Mr. Timothy and The Pale Blue Eye comes Courting Mr. Lincoln, the page-turning and surprising story of a young Abraham Lincoln and the two people who loved him best: a sparky, marriageable Mary Todd and Lincoln's best friend, Joshua Speed.

Read-Alikes are one of the many benefits of membership. To see the complete list of this book's read-alikes, you need to be a member.
More books by Jon Clinch
Search read-alikes
How we choose read-alikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Join our inner reading circle, go ad-free and get way more!

Find out more

Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Becoming Madam Secretary
    Becoming Madam Secretary
    by Stephanie Dray
    Our First Impressions reviewers enjoyed reading about Frances Perkins, Franklin Delano Roosevelt's ...
  • Book Jacket: The Last Bloodcarver
    The Last Bloodcarver
    by Vanessa Le
    The city-state of Theumas is a gleaming metropolis of advanced technology and innovation where the ...
  • Book Jacket: Say Hello to My Little Friend
    Say Hello to My Little Friend
    by Jennine CapĂł Crucet
    Twenty-year-old Ismael Reyes is making a living in Miami as an impersonator of the rapper/singer ...
  • Book Jacket: The Painter's Daughters
    The Painter's Daughters
    by Emily Howes
    Peggy and Molly Gainsborough are sisters and best friends, living an idyllic life in 18th-century ...

BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket
Half a Cup of Sand and Sky
by Nadine Bjursten
A poignant portrayal of a woman's quest for love and belonging amid political turmoil.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Stone Home
    by Crystal Hana Kim

    A moving family drama and coming-of-age story revealing a dark corner of South Korean history.

  • Book Jacket

    The House on Biscayne Bay
    by Chanel Cleeton

    As death stalks a gothic mansion in Miami, the lives of two women intertwine as the past and present collide.

Who Said...

The low brow and the high brow

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!


Solve this clue:

S B the B

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.