From the New York Times best-selling author of In The Heart of the Sea and Mayflower comes a surprising account of the middle years of the American Revolution and the tragic relationship between George Washington and Benedict Arnold.
In September 1776 the vulnerable Continental Army, under an unsure George Washington (who had never commanded a large force in battle), evacuates New York after a devastating defeat by the British army. Three weeks later, near the Canadian border, one of his favorite generals, Benedict Arnold, miraculously succeeds in postponing the British naval advance down Lake Champlain that might have ended the war. Four years later, as the book ends, Washington has vanquished his demons, and Arnold has fled to the enemy after a foiled attempt to surrender the American fortress at West Point to the British. After four years of war, America is forced to realize that the real threat to its liberties might not come from without but from within.
Valiant Ambition is a complex, controversial, and dramatic portrait of a people in crisis and the war that gave birth to a nation. The focus is on loyalty and personal integrity, evoking a Shakespearean tragedy that unfolds in the key relationship of Washington and Arnold, who is an impulsive but sympathetic hero whose misfortunes at the hands of self-serving politicians fatally destroy his faith in the legitimacy of the rebellion. As a country wary of tyrants suddenly must figure out how it should be led, Washington's unmatched ability to rise above the petty politics of his time enables him to win the war that really matters.
©2016 Nathaniel Philbrick (P)2016 Penguin Audio
"This fascinating audiobook is further lifted by narrator Scott Brick's impressive performance.... The times and the men, after all, combined for high drama. Brick's rendition captures it well." (AudioFile)
I had been waiting patiently for another book by Philbrick, hoping for another classic to add to my book shelf/audio collection. I've read them all, and I generally like what he writes about and how. This one just didn't keep me interested. Oh, I finished it but I didn't feel like the story was as fulfilling as I had hoped.
Philbrick does an excellent job providing the reader/listener with all the history of how Benedict Arnold came to be, and does a pretty good job explaining the backstory on how he turned on his country and why, but he does so in such a (I thought) dull way, that I never really sat on the edge of my seat waiting for the next turn of events. The story just wasn't very exciting.
Don't take my word for it, try it for yourself, and maybe you'll have a different/better take. I just hope his next book will keep my attention.
Benedict Arnold was a traitor but also a man who initially fought bravely and gallantly for America. He was arrogant and self-serving but was initially willing to risk his life for his country and the men he led. The book simply ended with his defection and a brief mention of a bloody battle. Personally I would have liked more details on his eventual move to England and what became of his wife and two boys. The downside for me was the narration by Scott Brick.
I loved hearing the other details of Benedict Arnold's rise and fall and an insider's view on the Rev. War. But, the author should have gone into more detail of what happened after the treason was discovered. What happened to Arnold in the British Army, and the massacre that he unleashed on the Continentals. What about after the war? It just ends without even talking about the end of the war, what happened to Arnold and his wife, kids. It's like the author got tired of writing, then just quit.
I'm a native New Yorker and a big fan of the Revolutionary Period of American History, so I dove into this story like a big chocolate cake. The detailed account of famous battles set against the backdrop of the Hudson River, early New York, Long Island and New Jersey was fascinating. I learned the actual story of how Benedict Arnold evolved from fierce patriot to traitor in relation to George Washington and the British. While this story seemed to be admirably and minutely researched, I got lost in the weeds a lot. Despite my earnest attempts to learn and be entertained, I found my attention wandering constantly, losing track of the story, and repeatedly replaying segments. I listened to entire chapters over again in order to grasp what was going on. This happened and then that happened and then this occurred meanwhile this was going on and then this.... It was hard for me to put it all together. And then the finale - no news of what actually happened to Benedict Arnold in the end! I had to Wiki the climax of his life! That was meager reward for so much effort.
I just finished "Lawrence in Arabia," an equally detailed narrative of the incredible events and relationships among the political players of the Middle East in the years leading up to World War I, with T.E. Lawrence at the heart of it all. I realized I only knew the Hollywood story from Lawrence of Arabia, and I wanted to know the gritty details. Like Valiant Ambitions, I had to repeat big segments of this history to master the details and grasp the big picture, but the narrator was terrific and I didn't want it to end!
My impression is that the 18th Century style of writing and speaking is quite formal compared to the way we communicate today. Perhaps this narrator was trying to capture the essence of this style, but his inflection struck me as odd, stiff, overly enunciated, almost condescending, as if I were in kindergarten and a volunteer adult was reading a story. I had to overcome my reaction in order to stick with the book.
I imagined the actors already playing Washington and Arnold in the tv series "TURN," which served well.
I was going to read "Mayflower" by Philbrick but maybe I'll go off in another direction.
The book dispels the kneejerk reaction posed by the name: Benedict Arnold
The battle and maneuvering at Lake Champlain should have won Arnold lasting admiration
Arnold's triumph over adversity becomes a metaphor for valor. No promotion, bankrupt, outmaneuvered, far from home, mis-guided by early Washington...he fought on with brilliance.
I loved everything about Valiant Ambition. Other biographical or historical accounts of the Revolutionary War tend to be dull, lifeless, academic affairs. This book brings the characters and stories of the Revolution to life in a vibrant way. From Washington to Arnold to all the men and women around them, the book breathes life into names and places that are not done justice by drier histories or accounts. Valiant Ambition succeeds in capturing the desperation of the war, and it even succeeds in making some deeper political and philosophical points. It is, put simply, the best book on George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Revolutionary War I've ever read.
The narrator is also excellent, making this already engrossing book darn near dangerous. Be warned: You won't be able to stop once you press play.
Book was well written history of Benedict Arnold and George Washington. It included much of the battles and the problems with the Continental Congress as well as the personalities and the reasons that drove Benedict Arnold to become a traitor
good read on topic I had little knowledge of. fascinating to learn of Arnold. did not know how much he meant to Washington.
This is one of the most fascinating books on American history I have read in ages. Love the detail that the author has put into the book, and Scott Brick was the perfect narrator for it!
The main focus of the story of course, George Washington and Benedict Arnold are interesting in their own right.
But what really got to me was the underlying story of the people and places involved. The fact that Congress, even in the beginning, was a hindrance more than a help in almost every aspect of the war was enlightening.
Calling the shots and deciding who gets what without ever getting their hands dirty is apparently the status quo - no wonder so many people want the job and never want to give it up.
How much money was invested by individual people to build armies to break free from Britain, to me, was amazing. And heartbreaking. Entire families were devastated financially to build this country.
In the current atmosphere that we find ourselves in this country, this book is an incredibly interesting read, and proves that history does in fact begin to repeat itself. The parallels between then and now were one of the most interesting things about reading this book.
I look forward to reading more of his books.
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