- Audible Audio Edition
- Listening Length: 41 hours and 57 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Penguin Audio
- Audible.com Release Date: October 5, 2010
- Language: English
- ASIN: B0045XYQ12
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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Washington: A Life Audiobook – Unabridged
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Oftentimes, one can approach the topic of a supposedly well known historical figure, like Washington, with a desire to be told only what one already knows. On this score, Chernow gladly disappoints because he is unafraid to dive deep into many different facets of the historical milieu surrounding Mr. Washington. Additionally, Chernow appropriately corrects some of the better known myths that are often repeated as facts from Washington's life (e.g. Washington's false teeth were made of wood or alas, the cherry tree bromide). Chernow also avoided the extremes of hero worship and an overly critical after-the-fact wisdom born by the events mentality. In other words, Chernow really attempted and, I believe, succeeded at presenting an even-handed biography of Washington.
Not only did Chernow provide me with a broad and deep understanding of Washington, he also provided helpful, descriptions of characters like Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Hancock, Alexander, Lafayette, Knox, Andre, Arnold, and many others. Chernow was able to make me feel the desperation of the Continental Army during the successive long winters during the 8 years of war. More importantly, through extensive use of primary sources, Chernow provided a deep look into Washington's psyche as he worked through the multitudinous issues that threatened to unravel the fledgling, new Republic.
Interestingly enough, Chernow's work left me planning to read and study the Constitution and the Constitutional Convention. This book also implanted the desire to visit or revisit Williamsburg, Yorktown, Boston, Monticello, Philadelphia and Mount Vernon. Chernow's work also reminded me of the tender reed that was our republic from 1775 to 1787 and even well into the 2 terms of President Washington.
Perhaps one of the most potent areas of Chernow's biography is devoted to the topic of slavery. Chernow takes a sage and nuanced approach to this topic. In my opinion, Chernow's decision to address the topic of slavery throughout the book (indeed as Washington struggled with the subject throughout his life) was the crowning achievement of this book. Somehow Chernow made me feel the anguish of the slave while also appreciating the national struggle to address this most dreadful aspect of our national history.
In my opinion, Chernow's writing fell short in 2 respects. First, Chernow gave inadequate treatment to the religious foundation of our Country's founding. Second, Chernow overstepped the evidence to conclude that Washington viewed the Constitution as "a living, breathing document." Other than these shortcomings, Chernow's work provided a substantial feast of historical prose that left me with a vivid mental, emotional image of this great man, George Washington.
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