Book Review of “George Washington: A Life”

April 22nd, 2020 On Our Shelves

Reviewed by David Price, Washington Crossing Historic Park Historical Interpreter

Although Ron Chernow’s weighty tome is not for every reader, anyone wanting to discover the flesh-and-blood man behind the Washington legend need look no further than this Pulitzer Prize-winning account.

Chernow’s elegant prose brilliantly captures America’s elusive “First Hero.”

His Washington is an individual of driving ambition but modest public persona. Someone who experienced powerful emotions but publicly maintained an aloof and dignified demeanor; a shrewd businessman who struggled in his quest for financial security; a demanding slaveholder who became the only “founding father” to free those he held in servitude; a public figure who exhibited keen political skills but is not generally regarded as a skilled politician; a man of sound judgment who needed ample time to make decisions; a warrior who steadfastly adhered to the principal of civilian control over the military; a general who lost more battles than he won but ultimately emerged victorious; a person who was not an intellectual but committed himself wholeheartedly to the pursuit of certain ideas; and a leader with great power who knew when to relinquish it.

If each generation of Americans deserves to have its own definitive biography of Washington, then Chernow’s masterpiece is our due.