Book Review: Washington A Life by Ron Chernow

By now you all may have realized that I am not a professional reviewer. i tend to just tell you what I like and don;t like about the books and movies that end up on the site. There are good and bad aspects of that but if any of that helps you decide to read/watch/avoid something then it may be worth it.

In this book, Washington A Life Ron Chernow has successfully peeled away the layers of myth from the man known as the Father of our Country. That is one of the things that comes out of this biography is that George Washington was man, not a marble statue and over the centuries we have tended to forget that.

He was vain. He was a shrewd business man who enjoyed making money, with mixed results. He was also almost always broke and even at the height of the Revolution was trying to get his holdings to turn a profit. He was not that great of a general and seemed to get by with a prodigious amount of luck. And yes, he was a slave owner who sometimes railed against the institution and sometimes wondered what he would do without it. He was also an honorable man with a sense of duty and willingness to sacrifice for his country that set him above even the other giants of the age.

Chernow shows all this and very seldom does he judge Washington by contemporary standards, he slips on occasion especially when slavery comes up, but more of a scalpel than a sledgehammer.

He does show that Washington was a well meaning and honorable man who was the exact man needed at the time. And there in lies the true value of Chernow’s work. He not only presents Washington as the “indispensable man” but spends almost a thousand pages proving that fact.

Now that actually brings up a caveat that seems to be one of my favorites. The book is long and not a casual read. Even the audio book version is over fifty hours long. It never drags and never gets boring but it is an investment of time.

Chernow is best known no for writing the biography of Alexander Hamilton that put him on Broadway. Will the same happen with Washington? Probably not. Should you read this book? Yes, if General Washington is a mystery you need solved, Chernow lays him bare.

As always clinking the link takes you to Amazon where you can find a copy of the book.