Washington: The Indispensable Man: The Illustrated Edition

James Thomas Flexner. Sterling Signature, $45 (452p) ISBN 978-1-4027-7821-6
Originally published two years before America’s bicentennial, this substantially illustrated biography (an abridged version of the late author’s National Book Award–winning four-volume account of George Washington’s life) tracks the multitalented man from his humble beginnings as a surveyor through his role as a founding father to the newly created presidency, and beyond. Flexner deftly “rescue[s]” Washington from the grip of mythologies that showed him as merely a truth-telling tree-cutter or “a procession of mirrors reflecting” people’s political attitudes, and situates him as “a fallible human being made of flesh and blood and spirit.” Flexner shows him to be a man both burdened and blessed by his “innate inability to separate theory from practice,” a condition of his character that coaxed him to posthumously free all his slaves. With casual readers in mind, the author addresses crucial historical events, revolutionary personalities, key battles, and pressing political issues (while elucidating their contemporary contexts) in consistently crisp and lively language. Featuring numerous portraits, maps, facsimiles, and transcripts (e.g., of Washington’s farewell address), this gorgeous volume solidifies “the multitude of living ghosts” that make up Washington in the popular mind. Illus. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/29/2012
Release date: 11/01/2012
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