GEORGE WASHINGTON AND THE FOUNDING OF A NATION by Albert Marrin

GEORGE WASHINGTON AND THE FOUNDING OF A NATION

Age Range: 12 & up

KIRKUS REVIEW

Marrin’s biography of our first president is packed with information, but is problematic in its presentation. In his characteristically epic style, he portrays an intriguing George Washington: militarily inexperienced, socially retreating, but with a hard edge that helped him to gain wisdom through his mistakes and earn respect as a commander. Copiously documented, the narrative should inspire readers to learn more about Washington. But Marrin undercuts his own authority with several stylistic problems. He regularly uses sweeping statements that, without clarification or context, are debatable (“Great Britain ruled the mightiest empire in all of human history”), or illogical, e.g., “Had it not been for Charles Lee, Washington might have won the war that day. Because of Lee, it would drag on for another five years.” (Lee may well have kept the war from ending that day, but he himself did not have anything to do with its ultimate length.) In an unusual comparison he suggests that “a war dance was like a ‘pep rally’ before a college football game.” He relies on the present tense to lend drama to his scenes, in a way that can only be considered fiction (“At once, a plan formed in the British General’s mind”), or that makes an interpretation but presents it as fact (“Someone, undoubtedly without his [Washington’s] permission, had driven a pole into the ground amid the corpses”). Marrin’s style makes for dramatic reading here and there, but his narrative is long and often bogged down in details, and he eventually undermines any dramatic tension by overusing his tricks. The book is well illustrated on nearly every page with black-and-white reproductions of etchings, drawings, and maps; notes, a bibliography, and index (not seen) complete it. Marrin’s book may be useful to young readers for its extent of documented information, but they may find better reading elsewhere. (Nonfiction. 12+)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-525-46268-6
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2000




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