Grant is one of the most underrated heroes of American history. He is usually remembered as a drunk, a butcher, or an incompetent, who had one of the most corrupt presidential administrations ever. There's a grain of truth in some of these — Grant did have a drinking problem earlier in his life; his final push to end the Civil War resulted in appalling casualties; and many of the men he picked for his administration betrayed his trust. (No evidence about the incompetence, except with money: he was a brilliant general and a wonderful writer.)
But Grant remains a hero: personally honest, a devoted husband and father, a courageous soldier, a brilliant strategist, and totally committed to Lincoln's vision for ending the war. H. W. Brands demonstrates his remarkable virtues in chapter after fast-moving chapter. Even his presidency gets more positive attention than usual: among other things, he broke the power of the Ku Klux Klan in the postwar south.
And of course there's the inspiring story of his battle with bankruptcy and cancer and his struggle to complete his memoirs before succumbing to the final assault. Their subsequent publication (by Mark Twain) ensured the prosperity of his family for many years after his death.
H. W. Brands tells the story as much as possible in the words of the participants. Every biographer of Grant will quote from the same letters and journals and memoirs; but usually these are snippets interspersed with summary and interpretation. Brands is more generous in his quotations, presenting whole paragraphs and even groups of paragraphs. The result is an exceptionally vivid account. Brands has captured him in motion.
Stephen Hoye narrates briskly and with a lot more passion than is usual in nonfiction. It's an audiobook I plan to return to again and again.
Greenberg has written a lively political history of the Mexican war and the substantial but disorganized opposition to it. Key players include Henry Clay, James K. Polk, Nicholas Trist, and Abraham Lincoln: all deftly characterized with a few well-chosen anecdotes. The military history is covered in broad strokes - for more detail on that, a better choice would be Martin Dugard's Training Ground. But if you want a clear and vivid picture of the machinations that led to the war and to its ultimate conclusion, this is the book for you.
There are obvious parallels with more recent wars, some of them opposed by many in the US, but Greenberg doesn't hit us over the head with that. Apart from a few somewhat anachronistic references to "embedded journalists," she leaves us to our own conclusions. This is political history, not politicized history.
Caroline Shaffer's narration is equally lively. At first it seemed discordantly "peppy" to me, but as I got used to her style of delivery, I realized her unflagging energy was keeping me drawn to the story. All in all, I really enjoyed it.
This is a wonderful, totally absorbing biography of Edwin and John Wilkes Booth. Nora Titone has an almost magical ability to create a sense of place and time as she follows the Booth brothers from their family farm to New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. It really is about both brothers, and the look at 19th-century American theater fully justifies the dual focus: how is it possible that Edwin Booth (and their father Junius Brutus Booth -- not to mention their resourceful mother!) has been overlooked for so long? There is plenty of time as well in this generous narrative to develop a number of figures peripheral to the main story, like Julia Ward Howe and her husband "Chev" (short for "Chevalier"); John Brown; and a number of theatrical colleagues and managers.
John B. Lloyd provides a clear, well-paced reading. My only regret is that Titone leaves the description of the actual conspiracy to kill Lincoln to others; but reading this makes it clear what direction John Wilkes Booth was headed in, and why. I loved it. I would recommend it to anyone interested in Lincoln, the Civil War, the American theater, or the 19th century in general.
Audible has changed my life! Dry , itchy eyes were destroying one of my greatest pleasures - reading. Now I am experiencing books again!
Everyone has reviewed this book. It is as excellent as everyone says! I'm only writing yet another review because I believe there is a real difference between this and other great Presidential and civil war tomes - the perspective of a few, very interesting woman.
Don't get me wrong - the stars here are Lincoln and his "rivals", but a female historian just naturally carries her interest a little farther - into the lives and motives of the women who love and inspire them. Mary Lincoln becomes real here, but I also appreciate the fascinating details about lesser-known wives and daughters like Kate Chase and Frances Seward. Doris Kearns Goodwin's inclusion of these women adds yet another dimension to an already exemplary historical effort. It's an element which many fine male historians have overlooked.