My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Ellis tells a good story, and Washington’s story is pretty fantastic. This book was meant to be a modest one-volume attempt at pulling together the life of George Washington in the light of the piles of scholarship concerning the Revolutionary era that has amassed in the past sixty years. Now, I’m no scholar of this era, but (in my humble analysis) Ellis pulled it off.
In the preface, Ellis says something to the effect that Washington was surrounded by men who were more accomplished than him in just about every way: Hamilton was a greater genius, Adams was better educated, Madison had greater political sense… but all these great men considered Washington their undisputed superior. Why was that? According to one of his eulogists, George Washington was first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of the American people. Ellis tries to spin a yarn that, in some degree, answers the question of how Washington came to be the personal embodiment of the American revolution. Good stuff.