cover image James Madison: A Life Reconsidered

James Madison: A Life Reconsidered

Lynne Cheney. Viking, $36 (560p) ISBN 978-0-670-02519-0

In a meticulously researched, richly detailed look at the life and times of Madison, former Second Lady Cheney (We the People) fleshes out the achievements and struggles of this American Founding Father. As much a biography of the statesman, intellectual, and politician who rose to become President as a history of the country’s tumultuous post-Revolutionary War growth, the work covers a lot of ground. Authoritative, conversational, certainly confident in its analysis, the book paints Madison as a man of great accomplishments; one who struggled against setbacks, political opponents, and health problems. Cheney does veer uncomfortably close to hero worship: “Madison’s time of extraordinary achievement came after years of intense focus, deep concentration, and nearly obsessive effort, behavior that describes most lives of genius, from Sir Isaac Newton’s to Mozart’s to Einstein’s.” However, she does show his impressive influence in helping to forge a nation out of chaos through constant debate and begrudging compromise. Cheney conclusively demonstrates through the historical record that Madison, in word and deed, was a primary figure in shaping early American development and successfully establishes “a deeper understanding of the man who did more than any other to conceive and establish the nation we know.” Agent: Robert Barnett, Williams & Connolly. (May)