EISENHOWER by Geoffrey Perret


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A straightforward narration of the life of one of the century’s most remarkable and indispensable leaders. Biography is among the most difficult forms of history, for a biographer often thinks a choice must be made between describing and interpreting a life, when both may be undertaken at once. Unfortunately, Perret, a military historian (Winged Victory: The Army Air Forces in World War II, 1993), and biographer of Ulysses S. Grant, has taken the easiest approach and limited himself largely to a narration of the life of Dwight D. Eisenhower—great military leader, mediocre president, and universally beloved American—more or less letting the facts speak for themselves. In this first full-length biography of Ike in two decades, Perret makes use of the pertinent scholarship produced in the interim, as well as documents, such as Ike’s diaries, unavailable to his predecessors. Yet while Perret portrays his foot soldiers’ general in admiring terms, his portrayal yields little that is significantly new about Ike’s generalship, his presidency, or the great events in which he was involved. Eisenhower does come off as a better thinker and writer than we normally view him. He appears sharper-tongued and more acerbic than we recall him and is scornful of many others, such as Douglas MacArthur. And in Perret’s hands, we come to appreciate better his qualities of leadership, which he understood to spring, not from command, but from human relationships, at which he was superb. But still the man eludes us, as in the end he eludes Perret, too. In a generally solid treatment, one looks in vain for interpretation and evaluation as well as narration. A biography that effectively recalls Ike’s life while not adding significantly to knowledge of it—or of the events Ike’s life affected. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-375-50046-4
Page count: 672pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1999


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