Saturday, November 14, 2015

Book Review -- Washington: A Life, by Ron Chernow

I just finished the audiobook version of Washington:  A Life, by Ron Chernow. It argues that modern readers view Washington as a mythological hero from the past, and the author gives examples of Washington's personal and emotional side throughout the biography in an effort to give readers a sense of what he was like as a person. The book also addresses Washington's status as a slaveholder from a modern perspective and is quite critical of both George and Martha Washington.

The book also explores Washington's relationships with women, including his youthful infatuation with Sally Fairfax, the wife of his friend, concluding that while it is apparent that Washington had strong feelings for her, there is no evidence of any physical relationship between the two. Also interesting was his close relationship with Elizabeth Powel, who was the wife of Samuel Powel, mayor of Philadelphia during the Constitutional Convention in 1787.

I appreciated the book's detailed coverage of Washington's part in the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War, but the story doesn't get bogged down by discussion of military minutia that would put off those, like me, who aren't all that interested in the fine details of battles.