PATRIOTS: The Men Who Started the American Revolution by A.J. Langguth
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PATRIOTS: The Men Who Started the American Revolution

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With skill and precision, one of our best nonfiction writers combines history and biography to tell the story of the American Revolution in terms of the men who fought it. Langguth, who has written excellent books on a variety of other subjects (Saki: A Life of Hector Hugh Monroe, 1981; Hidden Terrors, 1978; Macumba: White and Black Magic in Brazil, 1975), first considered writing about the American Revolution more than 20 years ago, while reporting from Saigon on the war in Vietnam. ""The unconventional tactics of the National Liberation Front as its soldiers fought the world's most powerful nation brought back memories of Lexington and Concord from high-school history class."" The resulting book, based about equally on primary and secondary sources, is successful less for the originality of its research than for the elegance of its narrative construction. Weaving short biographies of each of the founding fathers into a continuously unfolding series of vividly described historical events, Langguth manages to suggest each man's particular view while at the same time capturing the flavor of the whole. George Washington ""had been raised for the ambiguous life of a Virginia gentleman with a limited fortune""; John Adams, in the strange position of defending the British after the Boston Massacre, we find to be self-conscious and ambitious, considered ""stiff and formidable"" even as a young man. Following these men and their British counterparts through dramatic conflicts in Congress, in the courtroom, and on the battlefield over a period of nearly 25 years, we begin to know them intimately, and the American Revolution comes alive in a fascinating, stunningly human way. An impressive work.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster