The dramatic story of how Washington, D.C., rose from a wilderness is a vital chapter in American history, filled with intrigue and outsized characters - from Pierre Charles L'Enfant, the eccentric, passionate, difficult architect who fell in love with his adopted country, to George Washington, who struggled to balance L'Enfant's enthusiasm for his brilliant design with the strident opposition of fiscal conservatives such as Thomas Jefferson. Their conflicts mirror the struggles of a fledgling nation to form a kind of government the world had not yet known, prefiguring similar battles fought in Congress today.
Utterly absorbing and scrupulously researched, Washington Burning offers a fresh perspective on the birth of not just a city but a nation.
©2008 Les Standiford; (P)2008 Tantor
This book concentrates on the life and contributions of L'Enfant. One does not reach the actual burning of the city until about 75% of the way through the book. Most of the book deals with the planning and construction of Washington. There are many interesting tidbits - L'Enfant spent an inordinate amount of time looking for copper to reproduce his plan for the capital - as well as well told stories such as L'Enfant's incredible and self-destructive stubbornness. Yet the book does not capture. Finally the author takes the occasion to wax on about 9/11 in a manner that never really surpasses the personal.
Good story and well written, but the narration is absolutely horrible. The guy's French accent sounds more like Middle Eastern or American Indian. The listener knows that the main character is French, so enough already. Even when he is not making L’Enfant sound like an idiot his narration is deplorable. I would read this rather than listen to it because it is pretty painful at times.
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