Washington: A Life

Ron Chernow, Penguin, $40.00 (904p) ISBN 9781594202667
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. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/11/2010
Release date: 10/01/2010
Show other formats
Compact Disc - 978-0-14-242833-7
Compact Disc - 978-0-14-242860-3
Hardcover - 904 pages - 978-1-84614-402-8
Open Ebook - 928 pages - 978-1-101-44418-4
Hardcover - 1473 pages - 978-1-4104-3117-2
Open Ebook - 928 pages - 978-1-101-44900-4
Open Ebook - 928 pages - 978-1-101-45382-7
Pre-Recorded Audio Player - 978-1-61657-249-5
Book - 978-0-307-87646-1
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-307-87647-8
Open Ebook - 928 pages - 978-1-101-44018-6
Paperback - 928 pages - 978-0-241-95117-0
Paperback - 904 pages - 978-0-14-311996-8
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
Email Address


Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email pw@pubservice.com with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.