I read a lot of historical fiction and since discovering audio books, I have time to listen to historical nonfiction. Now I'll be able to compare fact with fiction! Fischer manages to write a riveting account of Washington crossing the Delaware, and the narrator is superb. The crossing and the ensuing Battle of Trenton take up the middle portion of the book. The first part provides interesting background about the American and English armies, and the Hessian mercenaries (did you know that Germans made up about one-third of the English army? I didn't). In the last part, Fischer describes the game of cat and mouse immediately following the small but important American victory. Fischer's analysis and comments on Leutze's famous painting are also fascinating and informative - Washington was likely standing in the boat!
This is Kostova's debut, and she labored ten years writing it. I want to be kind, so I will say that I hope her next effort is better. The style is an odd mixture of insipid melodrama. There are no less than three passionate romances. Even with all the danger and horror, none of the academic historians suffer from a single cowardly moment. The story is filled with amazing and ridiculous coincidences, as well as lunatic behavior from otherwise rational characters. For example, Helen, a main character, decides to abandon her husband and young daughter for almost twenty years because she had jumped from a cliff to escape certain capture by Dracula. Why did she not return to them? Because she felt that the shame of jumping and perhaps dying made her unworthy of her family. The writing and dialogue are juvenile. Kostova even manages to emasculate Dracula, but I can't tell you how without giving too much away. To add insult to injury, the voice of Paul, a main character, is annoyingly deadpan itself. He might as well be reading a children's bedtime story than a horror story.
I read a lot of historical fiction and since discovering audio books, I have time to listen to historical nonfiction. Now I'll be able to compare fact with fiction! Chernow's Alexander Hamilton is a wonderfully written and narrated biography; sometimes as personal and compelling as fiction. As nonfiction it's long and detailed, but my interest never lagged. I felt surprised at the mysteries surrounding the fatal duel; Chernow speculates between two extremes: that Hamilton may have felt depressed and resigned to death, or that he may have expected a harmless ritual in the routine defense of honor. Other than that loose end, for which there may be no definitive answer, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this book and learning about the man who had such a great hand in shaping the government of the new United States.
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