Most helpful positive review
74 of 80 people found the following review helpful
on November 7, 2010
Newt Gingrich and William Forstchen have given us another gem of American History in writing Valley Forge, a sequel to their last book, To Try Men's Souls. In writing the review below, I recommend all to read this book on the basis of its historical richness, told through narrative story, as well as its thematic commentary upon what makes America great.
First off, the historical accuracy of this book is phenomenal, and quite frankly, I probably learned more in reading this book than most history books that tend to be three times in size. Historical characters like Moses Wheeler, Horatio Gates, and the great Marquis Lafayette, all occupy very important roles within American history, but few texts go to the lengths that Valley Forge does in noting their stories (for example, Wikipedia, at this moment, doesn't even seem to have a page dedicated to Moses Wheeler, a blackmark for any website that claims superior, historical records).
And while Gingrich and Forstchen have gone to meticulous lengths to stitch the story behind Valley Forge, the most important reason for reading this book is that it is deeply compelling. In particular, with regard to the theme, we become most engaged over the contrasting stories between Marquis Lafayette and Allen Van Dorn.
While a Frenchman by birth, Lafayette is a real, historical character, a young man who studied under George Washington, eventually earning Washington's trust and leading important groups of American soldiers. As described by Gingrich and Forstchen, Lafayette is haughty, anxious and overeager, yet his hunger to birth a country based on enforced freedoms gives him the courage that ultimately wins Washington's trust. As the book unravels, it becomes clear to us that Lafayette feels more at home as an American than a Frenchman, with our own American troops asking him to stay beyond the end of the battle, in implementing the freedoms they hope to birth (and of special note, Lafayette did just that, ultimately earning American citizenship).
Lafayette's wonderful story is contrasted with a fictional character, Allen Van Dorn, who, while raised in America, decides to stay loyal to the English Crown. In wearing the British uniform and providing the British Armies with valuable insights, strategy, and prowess, it becomes clear to Van Dorn that, despite his skills, which are superior to most British soldiers, he will never be accepted as an equal.
Perhaps the most beautiful line from the book is in the later chapters, where Van Dorn, in realizing the passion that the American soldiers have for freedom, looks at his own British brothers, particularly, his good friend, Andre, and senses hollowness, as narrated from the book:
"[Van Dorn] looked at the men around him and wondered what exactly it was that they were fighting for. Andre spoke of adventure, a new campaign, and always the obsession all of them had for promotions, glory, and titles."
It is a sad note, at the book's end, to see Van Dorn regret that he suited with an Army full of shallow intention, but more importantly, that Van Dorn missed out on the most pivotal consequence that the world's history would ever note - the creation of the United States of America.
...and Van Dorn knows, his decision is a mistake that will haunt him into the hereafter.
I recommend this great book to all!