MAJOR WASHINGTON by Michael Kilian


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 Creaky and ponderous but occasionally eye-opening take on George Washington's less-than-brilliant career as spy, commander, and possible instigator of the French and Indian War. As portrayed by Kilian, a Capitol Hill correspondent and novelist (The Big Score, 1993, etc.), Gentleman George, still in his 20s in 1754, was a fastidious, patronizing bumbler of such preening ambition and political naivetÇ that it's a wonder he's still on the dollar bill. Young sea captain Tick Morley, who likes books and baths, confesses that, as charismatic as towering Major Washington appears, the only thing admirable about him is how well he rides a horse. Morley nevertheless agrees to carry Washington's letters to Virginia's Colonial Governor Dinwiddie and to the brilliant, bawdy Mr. Benjamin Franklin of Philadelphia. Upon learning that Morley is a virgin, Franklin drags the youngster to a bordello, then regales him with a vision of vast political forces lining up to decide the destiny of the American colonies. Franklin, who shines on these pages, believes that the flawed but impressive Washington, if he's not killed by the French, just might emerge as a leader of a rebellion against King George. He encourages Morley to spy on George, who is, in turn, spying on the French for Governor Dinwiddie. Washington founders in the Alleghenies and, while pining for the tempestuously married Sally Fairfax, ambushes a group of Frenchmen, thus starting the 1755 war that culminates in the disastrous humiliations of Washington and the British General Edward Braddock. Morley witnesses Washington's picaresque pratfalls with a mixture of embarrassed rage and boyish astonishment, as Washingtonscoundrel, hypocrite, and swooning romanticbecomes an unlikely symbol of the unlikely nation he will one day lead. Once past the leaden, pseudo18th-century colonial prose, it becomes clear that Kilian's tale is less about Washington and more about the crazy things men do when they're in loveand about the awful price women must pay as the objects of such inspiration.

Pub Date: Feb. 23rd, 1998
ISBN: 0-312-18131-0
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1998


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