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Condition: Used: Good
Comment: Publisher: Riverhead Books
Date of Publication: 2015
Binding: hardcover
Edition: F First Edition
Condition: Good
Description: First edition, first printing. This book is in good condition. Normal wear to jacket, covers, and edges, text is clean with no marks, binding tight. Not ex-library. 100% guaranteed.
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Lafayette in the Somewhat United States Hardcover – October 20, 2015

4.2 out of 5 stars 259 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of October 2015: The Marquis de Lafayette, a.k.a. one of George Washington’s best buds, is the subject of Sarah Vowell’s latest offering, Lafayette in the Somewhat United States. So, why would a young French aristocrat venture to our shores to join Washington’s army and fight in the Revolutionary War? He came for the glory! He came because he believed in American ideals! He came to escape his in-laws! But, mainly it was for the Enlightenment ideas that were unevenly embraced by many of his fellow comrades—ideas that impacted how the war played out. I have seen eyes glaze over when I talk about this sort of thing, but anyone familiar with Vowell’s oeuvre knows what a knack she has for making the (seemingly) mundane fascinating. She also draws some oddly comforting parallels between that time and our own (turns out that politicians have been butting heads, acting like idiots, and sporting terrible comb-overs since the birth of our great nation). There is rarely a description of Vowell that doesn’t include the term “acerbic,” and her signature snark, strategically employed, is one of the things that makes ‘Lafayette’ a fun (and yes, educational) read. But the other quality that shines through is her optimism. You will be smarter and less cynical after reading it. –Erin Kodicek


"[A] freewheeling history of the Revolutionary War... Vowell points out that Lafayette was for a time 'a national obsession.'" —The New Yorker

“Vowell wanders through the history of the American Revolution and its immediate aftermath, using Lafayette’s involvement in the war as a map, and bringing us all along in her perambulations…Her prose sparkles.”—The New York Times Book Review

“[Vowell] takes an open and observant 'Hey, that’s nuts' stance toward past and present, which results in a book that’s informative, funny and insightful.” TIME

“Gilded with snark, buoyant on charm, Vowell's brand of history categorically refuses to take itself — or any of its subjects — too seriously….At once light-footed and light-hearted, her histories are — dare I say it — fun. And Lafayette is no different. Even amid defeats... Vowell emerges from the Revolutionary War with an unabashed smile on her face. I'd be surprised if her reader doesn't, too.” NPR

"[Vowell] turns the dusty chronicle of American history into a lively mash up and then, playing the history nerd, delivers her stories in her flat funny voice.”The National Book Review

“Sarah Vowell turns her keen eye and droll wit to the American Revolution in her latest historical venture, Lafayette in the Somewhat United States… Vowell, of course, doesn't just give us the highlights; she offers a portrait of [Lafayette] and his older contemporaries, with whom he found friendship, glory, and endless bickering.” Cosmopolitan

“You can’t beat Sarah Vowell for quirky chronicles of American history's dark side.”Chicago Reader

“Vowell takes on American history as only she can, this time with the story of Frenchman theMarquis de Lafayette, a Revolutionary War hero.” USA Today

 “To impress the history buff at the table, read Vowell’s (ever the expert in, really, everything) in-depth and irreverent account of George Washington’s decorated general Lafayette, which also looks to our own political climate for context.”—Marie Claire

“Nobody recounts American history the way Sarah Vowell does, with irreverence and humor and quirky details — history and facts, but also entertainment. [Lafayette in the Somewhat United States] is about the friendship between George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette, but in Vowell’s inimitable style it is also firmly grounded in the present.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Here's one historian who is a born storyteller.”Philadelphia Inquirer

“Vowell’s rollicking, sly humor is the perfect spoonful of sugar to down with her intensive research and historical insight.” Huffington Post

If you ever wanted an insightful and entertaining look at the friendship between George Washington and his French aristocrat general Marquis de Lafayette, this book by Sarah Vowell…should be on your list." Kansas City Star

“Vowell's sort of the Quentin Tarantino of popular history: She weaves pop culture and real life into her narrative, breaking down the barriers that keep history buried in the past." The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“Vowell is especially skilled at making detours seem natural and relevant, including in this case a swing by the boyhood home of Bruce Springsteen, which was in the neighborhood of a battle site and, hey, a historical landmark in its own right (plus, she adds, one of the Boss’s relatives was a Revolutionary soldier)… An intoxicating blend of humor and emotional weight.” The AV Club

“What so funny about American History? A lot, when it's Sarah Vowell telling the story.” Omnivoriacious

“Lafayette is lucky he has Sarah Vowell in his court.” New Republic

"With laugh-out-loud humor and her characteristic snark, Vowell makes this walk through history a walk in the park." The Washington Post

"A whopping canvas as choreographed as a graphic novel…. Vowell brings a learned, wiseacre hand to this work, full of its own brio and dash, and with that legerdemain that finds you embracing history." B&N Review

“Sarah Vowell books are equal parts incisive and laugh-out-loud funny.”—Inside Higher Ed

“[Vowell] is wonderful at showing the way history can be a conversation between the past and present.”Sophisticated Dorkiness

"An engaging reminder that America has never been anything but a (somewhat) dysfunctional country." —Washington Monthly

“Sarah Vowell is that hip high-school history teacher everyone wanted to have… She has a gift for the kind of description that seals an image in the reader’s imagination.”—Columbus Dispatch

“When it comes to weird basic facts, all you have to do is turn on a presidential debate to remind yourself of the irreconcilable paradoxes and contemptuous rifts at the highest levels of American public life. [This] is one of those books that reminds us things have been this way since the beginning.”The Stranger

“Author Sarah Vowell has a unique voice both in reality and in her reality… Vowell takes a rather wry look at history under any circumstance, applying her modern and political perspectives to her topics.”—Gabbing Geek

“Vowell has mined American history for surprising and amusing insights into the heart of the nation.”Slate

“Like her previous books, Lafayette strikes witty blows against the stodgy sorts of U.S. history taught in classrooms.”The Smithsonian 

"The enjoyment Vowell seems to derive from poking around in America’s obscure corners is part of what makes her historical narratives vital. In tracing history’s circuitous path, she demonstrates how we got where we are today—and sheds light on where we might be heading next.”—BookPage

"[Vowell is] as good at giving facts as she is at making sure you’ll retain them by telling the story in the most fascinating way possible.”Paste 

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books; F First Edition edition (October 20, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594631743
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594631740
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (259 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,016 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Sarah Vowell’s acerbic, insightful wit comes through loud and clear in this fascinating account of French General Lafayette and his role in the American Revolution, but it took me a while to adjust to her irreverent banter in print--as well as being an author Vowell is also known for her radio pieces on This American Life. This book runs almost 270 pages without any chapter breaks, and reads like the long-winded but mesmerizing stand-up routine of a highly knowledgeable, history obsessed comedian who knows how to use humor to make a point.

Lafayette was still a teenager when he left his young bride behind and snuck out of France to join the American Revolution against the wishes of his family, but he ended up becoming such a key figure in the winning of the war that cities all over the country are named for him. Vowell has a special knack for revealing the personalities of the many historical figures she writes about, their foibles, revealing quirks, and strengths. Since Lafayette had a close relationship with George Washington he features prominently in the book and I really appreciated getting a clearer picture of the man behind the myth. Vowell even manages to make battles and military strategy interesting, in part by keeping her focus on the people involved, and in part by not overlooking the missteps or ironies of the situations.

Vowell finds plenty of opportunities to relate the struggles of the Revolutionary period to American politics today, pointing out that many current ideological divisions and tendencies have an origin, or at least an analog, dating back to the founding of the country.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It's always a pleasure to see another Sarah Vowell book come out, and this is another of her highly readable efforts. Most Americans are vaguely aware that someone named Lafayette had something to do with the Revolution, and this book supplies the details, including entertaining portraits of many of the supporting characters. I had no idea that Pierre Beaumarchais (writer of the Figaro comedies that were the basis for operas by Rossini and Mozart) was instrumental in getting Lafayette to America. And in spite of being a descendant of Horatio Gates, I wasn't aware of his role in an attempt to remove Washington from command of the Continental Army (perhaps the nation's capital would now be called Gates, if he had succeeded?) Vowell's breezy, wisecracking style occasionally palls (as in her earlier books), but her often mordant comments on the current state of the union help to make the book a witty commentary both on the past and the present.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Sarah Vowell has a way of bringing history to life with knowledge and humor, and I was thrilled to obtain her latest effort, Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, through Amazon Vine. Not too long ago, I wondered why there are so many cities and towns named Fayetteville throughout the United States. When reading the history of Fayetteville, NC, I realized that all these places are named after Revolutionary War hero, the Marquis de Lafayette. Unfortunately, the contributions by this French citizen to our own country have been largely forgotten. So leave it to Vowell to bring Lafayette back to life in this interesting and entertaining book.

Lafayette was born Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier de Lafayette. Mostly, he is known as the Marquis de Lafayette or just Lafayette. “The thing that drew me to Lafayette as a subject—that he was the rare object of agreement in the ironically named United States—kept me coming back to why that made him unique.” His father died when he was only two in the Seven Years’ War and he was born hating the British. When he was 19, he sailed to the United States without the knowledge of his family to offer his services to the Continental Army. His reasons were varied including a “lust for glory, the appeal of escaping his nagging in-laws, boredom with the court shenanigans of Versailles, and a head full of Enlightenment chitchat about liberty and equality.” It didn’t hurt that he was independently wealthy and agreed to serve without pay. At first he was given the rank of major general, but without any duties. But it didn’t take long for George Washington and Lafayette to form a father-son bond and General Washington soon started trusting the young Frenchman with more leadership rolls.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I first became familiar with Sarah Vowell's work via her radio appearances on NPR's "This American Life". While she brings an unapologetically slightly left of center view to her work, she also brings the subjects she examines to vivid life in ways that are insightful, humorous and reflect strong academic discipline. While her overall approach may be not be appreciated by staid historiographers, for those looking to plug gaps in their knowledge of historical subjects: she is a great resource.

"Lafeyette in the Somewhat United States" explores the role of the teenage general, Gilbert de Motier, Marquis de Lafayette in the American Revolution. Centered on Lafayette and his access to the military and financial might of France in assisting the US colonies, it expands in a series of other examinations, to include Lafayette's relationship with George Washington, the politics of colonial military command and the larger evolution of diplomatic relations between France and the colonies.

Vowell is very effective at providing context on what is really going on in the background of the rather staid documentary records of events from the late 18th century. She does this in ways that are often laugh out loud funny and useful for providing contexts on issues we face in the modern world.

I started placing dog ears on the funniest passages as I read...and then stopped, because she is witty at every turn, and she uses this wit to effectively illuminate what she writes about. About his arrival in Charleston, Vowell quotes Lafayette's letter: "Everything around me was new...the room, the bed draped in delicate mosquito curtains, the black servants who to me quietly to ask my commands...the luxuriant vegetation...".
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