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America is a fascinating place and Sara Vowell takes us along with her as she explores our founding generations and their impact on our life today. Lots of authors do that as well but Ms. Vowell also brings humor, irony and a little spark to the journey that makes me listen to and/or read her books again and again.
Having read Chernow's extensive biography of George Washington, I couldn't help but be interested in the life of one of his closest friends, Lafayette. Lafayette pricked Washington's conscious about one of Washington's most difficult conundrums - slavery. All the while, being a true friend to Washington, the Revolution and the country that became the United States. I'm happy I got the chance to know him better.
18 of 18 people found this review helpful
I like Sarah Vowell's style. And, before you buy this audiobook, you should make sure that you like Sarah Vowell's style too- her storytelling approach and voice are very distinctive, and even a short sample of the audiobook should be enough to tell you whether it could work for you, or whether it will drive you crazy. So, listen before you go any further.
Even assuming that you are okay with The Voice, this book is a bit odd. Sarah writes with humor, but has an obvious non-ironic love for American history. At the same time, she has gotten a variety of her famous friends to provide voices for the frequent (and frequently jarring) quotes, and many of them seem to read their lines dramatically or with such terrible fake accents that it seems counter to the story being told (though, unsurprisingly, Nick Offerman is an awesome George Washington). So there are some weird tonal choices as a result.
Sarah Vowell picks unusual stories to tell, and I really appreciated the tale of Lafayette. I had come to the book fresh off an American Revolutionary history kick (inspired by the musical Hamilton, and the book John Adams), but still learned a lot. At the same time, the focus of the story is weirdly elusive. For most of the book, it is focused on Lafayette, framed by his triumphal return to the US at the end of his life. However, that frame is never explored, and, instead, we mostly get an interesting story of the trials and tribulations of George Washington (with Lafayette as sidekick) from 1777-1778 and 1781-82. It is a bit weird that Lafayette's role in the French Revolution, or his entire later life, gets short shrift. Similarly, the end of the book switches from history to essay on freedom, which is again interesting, but it seems like an abrupt transition, as does a long digression about Quakers.
I really enjoyed the book overall, however, but it is an odd hybrid of memoir, history book, travelogue, and essay. I am used to this from Vowell, but be prepared for something different if it is your first experience.
19 of 20 people found this review helpful