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Adopted Son: Washington, Lafayette, and the Friendship that Saved the Revolution Hardcover – January 30, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Personal friends and political allies, George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette had one of the most important friendships of the 18th century. In this enjoyable study, Clary (The Place Where Hell Bubbled Up: A History of the First National Park) argues that although each man was a hero of the American Revolution, it was their partnership that secured American victory. Both men were orphans, and their devotion to each other was motivated by a deep psychological bond. As the title suggests, Washington was something of a father figure to the younger Frenchman, and Lafayette gave the general "unwavering loyalty, truly filial devotion." But the mentoring was not wholly one-sided: Lafayette was committed to the abolition of slavery, and Clary suggests that it was because of Lafayette's influence that Washington chose to free his slaves on his wife's death. The chapters on Lafayette's role in the French Revolution and Washington's anguish over Lafayette's imprisonment make this book far broader than the usual 1776 account. Occasionally, Clary gives over to cutesy Frenchisms (about Lafayette being wounded at the Battle of Brandywine, he writes, "If this was martial glory, très bien"). Still, on the whole, Clary has satisfyingly woven together grand military history with an intimate portrait of deep affection. Illus. (Feb. 6)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In 1777 a wealthy 19-year-old nobleman from France presented his untested military services to the Continental army. Prudent as always, Washington tried the kid out as an aide before consenting to a command for Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de la Fayette. After proving his courage with a severe wounding at that year's Battle of Brandywine Creek, Lafayette was on his way to the military glory he sought, and the Americans had in him an advocate for French intervention against the British, which they sought. As Clary shows from the extensive correspondence that Washington and Lafayette conducted, their relationship deepened into an unabashedly paternal-filial one. His work's tone captures the sincere mutual solicitude that arose between the two, characterized by gratitude from Washington for Lafayette's personal loyalty, and by near idolization of Washington by Lafayette. Clary acquits himself well in narrating the military action of the major battles in which Lafayette commanded: Monmouth in 1778 and Yorktown in 1781. Portraying youth learning from experience, Clary's history will deservedly tap the readership for the War of Independence. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (January 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553804359
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553804355
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.4 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #300,867 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Jonathan Dolhenty on February 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This new century of ours has been blessed in these early years with a sudden deluge of excellent books dealing with America's founding years and with the characters involved in creating what can only be described as the "world's greatest and -- so far -- most successful experiment in Constitutional Democratic Republicanism." A few come readily to mind: Stacy Schieff's impressive "A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America"; Darren Staloff's very illuminating "Hamilton, Adams, Jefferson: The Politics of Enlightenment and The American Founding"; Walter Isaacson's intimate portrayal of probably the most fascinating founding father, "Benjamin Franklin: An American Life"; and, of course, David McCullough's recent study of George Washington and the early revolutionary-war days in his stirring "1776."

Now we can add to this list of excellent works another one: David A. Clary's new book, "Adopted Son: Washington, Lafayette, and the Friendship That Saved the Revolution." Clary documents (and, does he ever document!) the surprisingly intimate relationship between the "father" of our country, the commanding general of the Revolutionary War, with a heritage firmly in the English tradition, and the very young Marquis de Lafayette, a nineteen-year-old wealthy French aristocrat who comes to America, becomes a major general in the Continental Army, and a national hero in both America and in France.

Washington had no sons and Lafayette was an orphan; the confluence of these two situations led to a bond between the two men unheard of in the annals of the American Revolution.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By M. L Lamendola VINE VOICE on February 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This beautifully written book vies with the best novels of our time for the ability to engross a reader. It's one of the best examples of writing I've ever seen. Most authors are either good with style or good with the mechanics, but Clary is clearly a master of both.

The unusually high quality of the writing led me to think perhaps he was weak on fact. That's not the case, though, as you can see after reading through the nearly 20 pages of biography and nearly 100 pages of backnotes. The detailed chronology also shows the writer's devotion to getting his facts right.

And the facts he dug up are amazing. Far from a dry recitation of events, Clary's narrative delves deeply inside the minds of Lafayette and Washington. We see not just what made them great historical figures, but what made them human. Gone are the stereotypes and cardboard characters often presented in historical accounts. This book doesn't follow the "good guys vs. bad guys" formula. It shows the complex interaction of these men with each other and with others. It also shows their failings, insecurities, and weaknesses.

In an age where authors typically have a personal agenda and cherry pick facts to fit it, Clary's work stands out. His only agenda is to help us understand two great historical figures through an undistorted lens.

Clary's nimble use of excerpts from personal letters gives the kind of insight that historical texts should provide, but seldom do. He also provides explanation where needed. For example, letters of that time used saccharin language that we don't use today. It would be easy to misconstrue what's actually being conveyed, but Clary provides enough background so the reader doesn't get confused.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By D. Masson on March 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
In an age when we talk about 'freedom fries" as opposed to frech fries, one should read this book. You will get a true, concise picture of just how much we owe to the French during the Revolution!

The book is thoroughly researched and will keep your interest chapter to chapter. As a history teacher, I can honestly say that I actually learned inportant information from this book that will benefit the students in my classes.

A truly materfully written book that will not dissapoint the reader!!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Robert M. Utley on February 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover
As a practitioner of the craft of narrative history--that is, history for the lay reader that wins praise from academia--I can hardly add to the encomiums of the preceding reviewers. This book indeed captures both Lafayette and Washington, together with all their associates, in terms that make them real people rather than names on the page. Clary's skill at characterization is matched by his mastery of crisp, readable prose; of his characters and their interaction; of the dynamics and progress of the American Revolution; of the 18th-century French environment that shaped the young marquis; and of the manifold original sources and their balanced interpretation. I knew something of the Revolution, but I had no idea what a bond of affection, effusively poured out in frequent and very long letters, united the American commander and the youth of twenty whom he made a major general. This is history at its best, highly recommended to lay and academic readers. -- Robert M. Utley
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jay Miller on February 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
As a political journalist, I usually grow disinterested in history books sent for my review long before I finish them. Adopted Son is different. David Clary's writing style is not that of a historian even though he provides more than the usual amount of tools for the historical researcher.

Clary's narrative reads more like a novel, full of action, love and passion. This is the first time I have seen George Washington humanized. I knew he must be more than the stern,old general, as he is typically portrayed. Adopted Son gave me the total Washington. Finally, I can connect with the Father of Our Country.

My wife was quite surprised when I recommended Adopted Son to her. She sticks mainly to light recreational reading. But she got into this one fast and was genuinely moved by it. She hopes Clary continues along the same line in future books.

I'm recommending this one far and wide.
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