Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Writer Wednesday: Washington
It's time for Writer Wednesday, when I discuss another author and his or her book. Today I'd like to talk about Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow.
Legend. General. Politician. First President. Cherry Trees. Wooden Teeth. Martha. Crossing the Delaware. Mount Vernon. Slavery. Continental Congress. There are so many things that come to mind when thinking of George Washington. Ron Chernow makes the point in his impressive and massive biography of George Washington that, aside from Benjamin Franklin, Washington was the first American celebrity. His popularity endures long beyond his times and he is still admired, revered and provokes curiosity.
Ron Chernow's biography is both a New York Times Best-seller as well as a Pulitzer Prize winner. Beginning with Washington's childhood and progressing all the way through his legendary status, Washington's life, work, beliefs, relationships and influence are explored. A fascinating portrait of the American landscape as colony, as rising new political entity and as débutante on the world stage is also examined. The relationship with England and France and how this changed is particularly interesting. Sorting fact from fiction and offering a wealth of interesting stories and information, Washington is a fascinating book for anyone interested not only in the first president but in the early history of the United States.
I've visited historic Philadelphia, where Washington crossed the Delaware, Valley Forge, and Mount Vernon and it was nice being able to picture the places as I read through the biography. Sadly, for Washington, he was able to invest more emotionally into his home at Mount Vernon than actual time spent there. In addition, rather than bolster his income, it repeatedly drained his finances. I was surprised to learn that Washington was often poor and even had to borrow money to finance his trip to New York for his inauguration. Another fascinating part of the book is the emergence of the political party system in the 1790s. Prior to this, unity was the order of the day and so there was natural reluctance to any dissenters. Only later, would this be seen as a healthy and natural part of the American government.
With a colorful cast of characters and told in an extremely engaging style, Washington reads almost as a novel more than just a biography. It is a pleasure to eavesdrop on Martha Washington's Friday evening teas and to walk among the horses in the stable of the visitors who assemble in Mount Vernon. Walking the streets of Philadelphia or dancing at the balls, you can hear the rustle of silk and homespun American cotton and wool.
This book is well worth reading!
My best to you all,