Friday, November 17, 2006

Patriarch, by Richard Norton Smith

This was my first successful download from NetLibrary, and it was a long book, coming in at almost 19 hours. It was written by Richard Norton Smith in 1993 and was narrated by Nelson Runger, one of the better voices in audiobook publishing.

I have been on a real Founding Fathers bender lately, and I still have a biography of Samuel Adams on my hard drive, waiting for me to cleanse my palette with some light-hearted silliness. Patriarch was a very engrossing story of George Washington and his often overlooked administration. Midway through this book I realized I knew next to nothing about George Washington, the post-war Confederation and his 2 terms as president under our present Constitution. I also learned a great deal about Samuel Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, John Jay, and the rest of what you could call the original cast of "West Wing".

There is enough infighting and animosity inside George's administration that I can no longer think of the expression, "the Founders' original intention," without rolling my eyes. They were all over the map on every subject, and many of them couldn't stand each other. There were so many intrigues that the first President did not want to finish his first term, let alone get stuck with another. The pressures of maintaining the peace was just as challenging as winning the war, and it all seems quite familiar with our current controversies.

I would have loved every minute of this book if there had not been so many of them. I started getting lost in the Washington family adventures after awhile, and I think we could have done without the frequent appearances of various nieces and grandsons. George and Martha Washington had no offspring of their own, but they took on the task of helping to raise the children of relatives and those from Martha's first marriage.

The overall effect is a great deal of interesting history worthy of 4 stars, interrupted by bursts of 2 star soap opera. Overall, it's a 3 star effort that every student of American history should read.


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