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The Unexpected George Washington: His Private Life Hardcover – September 1, 2006


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this latest biography of the founding father, Unger uses Washington's personal letters, diaries and "little notes to himself" to provide an intimate view of the American hero who managed to follow his ambitions to great power without being disdained for them. The legendary leader, Unger reveals, was a successful farmer who spent as much as, and often more than, he made, was generous with his wife and children and had to settle for the title of "adopted father" because of his inability to have children of his own. Skirting the clichéd category of "renaissance man," Unger presents Washington as an early American prototype: the prescient and competent leader of men, who has taste, intellect and a strong conscience-traits which would ultimately be coaxed to action by John Adams. His love and care for Martha is resolute, and his friendship with the Marquis de Lafayette is revealed as sentimental and fatherly and without a shred of ceremonial stiffness. Unger's effort adds up to an engrossing and enjoyable read that allows the more well-known aspects of Washington's achievements to serve as context for his personal life. The famous Peale portrait may depict a stoic, even morose man, reflecting the leader of legend, but Unger's Washington is refreshingly romantic, a devoted husband and father who just happened to find success as a general and a president.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In this biography of the Father of Our Country, Unger features Washington's role as an involved pater familias within his own household. Striving to portray Washington in humanizing ways, Unger uses his letters to a brood of relations, revealing Washington's precepts of guardianship as well as his ire when his advice on education and comportment was ignored. Deaths frequently required Washington's epistolary attention and commemoration, and from his formal style of expression, Unger coaxes forth Washington's pain and sadness. Alongside life's arc, Unger dwells most on Washington's meticulous operation of the slave-run Mount Vernon and his land speculations in the Ohio River county, scene of Washington's name-making military exploits. Lengthy quotation from Washington's diary and instructions to employees and agents make Unger seem overly enthusiastic about Washington's shopping lists. Yet this focus allows Unger to reveal a Washington who had extravagant tastes, which standard biographies tend to minimize. For history readers interested in private lives. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (September 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471744964
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471744962
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #437,584 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

I ordered this book for my son.
Amazon Customer
I purchased this book as a birthday gift for a friend who is a major George Washington fan, since I had previously read it and found it to be absolutely fascinating.
Aunt Francie
This is a 2006 book by Harlow Unger.
Cabin Dweller

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Aunt Francie on April 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I purchased this book as a birthday gift for a friend who is a major George Washington fan, since I had previously read it and found it to be absolutely fascinating. Most books about him ignore the personal aspects of his life which are featured here and help understand him as a man rather than as a painting or a statue.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By David Mcmillion on February 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is truly a geat book. The title tells so little about what is in store for the reader. These are the kind of stories that should be told to children so that they would REALLY get to know who this great man was. I am glad that I saw this author on C-Span 2.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Granny10 on July 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Unger is an entertaining writer who makes a common topic intersting. I read anything I can on George Washington and still found this little book very intersting with a few new tidbits of information. I have ordered other books by Unger after reading this one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Seaotter on October 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Harlow Giles Unger's most interesting historical fiction about the Washington family was thoroughly researched and well written. All of Giles books are enjoyable reading, but this was one of his best. While George had many strengths, he was very much human and had his share of weaknesses also. George was an extremely lax disciplinarian, as was Martha, and his stepchildren were spoiled brats. A very successful plantation owner and businessman, he refused his children nothing. He and Martha were both big spenders. All of Unger's historical fiction novels on various Revolutionary era leaders paint a word picture of what life was like in colonial times and what the family life of the individuals also was like, which makes them most interesting to read.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a 2006 book by Harlow Unger. It is an even treatment, honest and without a tendency to scandal. Unger’s Washington indulges his step-children and grandchildren, his wife, and even himself against better judgment. Unger’s Washington doesn’t know when to stop spending, and Unger also returns too often to the tired chestnut of bad teeth. With a mention that Martha lost all of hers as well, I wonder why it becomes a topic of interest for her husband.
Hamilton and Jefferson are at each other, and then petitioning a second term for the president, who is able to sternly reply but not able to return to “private life,” perhaps the most overused concept in all of Washington’s biographies. That private life is crop rotation, the fusing of fruits and seeds, the invention of mules, the riding of horses, and the writing of letters, indeed too little about slaves.
And then there is Jacky. This book records more of the facts and frustrations than any so far. If that was not enough, much of their relationship can be superimposed from the last chapter’s emphasis on Washy’s many failures at Princeton and Annapolis, evidently just some school at Annapolis, and then the military hand-holding of a military man whose family is too thin on surviving young males. He was even to achieve the lowest rank, but Washington can’t help but make him look the part and at great fashionable expense. Start with page 32, though, and the question of Washington’ sentencing of 14, then reduced to two, deserters to death. This would have been 1756. Jacky and his sister arrive at Mount Vernon on page 42, with maids and servants. The boy soon after gets a “good violin” and flute ordered for him, impressed with music education with his sister from the earliest. Unger says Washington had no musical skills.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By mspilo on January 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
our most important president has many details of his life that need to be learned or re-learned by Americans
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Nann M. Pollock on May 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book. I have always liked Washington, but after reading this biography, I can honestly say he is one of my favorite people. I can hardly wait to visit Mt. Vernon.
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