TO AMERICA: Personal Reflections of a Historian
Before his recent, untimely death from cancer, Ambrose seemed to feel he had reached that age when a historian should write a memoir, which means writing yet another history book but replacing footnotes and analysis with anecdotes and opinions. Ambrose castigates the slave-holding founders of American liberty, celebrates the heroes of the slighted Battle of New Orleans and argues that white settlers treated Native Americans no worse than the tribes treated one another. On he goes, damning and praising, through the Vietnam War (which he firmly opposed), appending personal observations on racism, immigration, women's rights and America's nation-building mission. Halfway through, he pauses to recount his development as a historian and writer, from his master's thesis and his biographies of Eisenhower and Nixon to his more recent, bestselling books Undaunted Courage, Nothing Like It in the World and numerous titles on WWII. This personal narrative, dropped into the middle of the book, with revelations about his family life and encounters with famous war veterans, is what Ambrose fans really want to read. It is a pity that Ambrose (or his editors) decided to structure his ruminations and reflections according to historical chronology, because readers looking for his life story will have to take notes and write it themselves. In the process, Ambrose apparently hopes, they will learn what he claims the study of other men's lives has taught him: a broad-minded sympathy that acknowledges an individual's flaws yet focuses on positive achievements. (Nov. 11)
Forecast:This was probably destined for the bestseller list all along, and cynical though it may seem to say, the popular historian's death will probably help fuel sales.
Release date: 11/01/2002