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04 July 2015

TBR Pile Challenge | Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph Ellis

Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph J. Ellis | January 2000 | Knopf Doubleday | Paperback $15.95

★ ★ ★

Happy Independence Day!

It's July 4, the day that we celebrate our country's Declaration of Independence (cue majestic bald eagles soaring through the sweet air of freedom from taxation without representation) so what better day than to check this book off my TBR Pile Challenge list?

Unfortunately, I don't have much to say about it. This book was just, y'know, fine. I kind of expected to be blown away, given its Pulitzer Prize win? Oh, well.

Ellis really delves deep into the personalities, motivations, and actions of several of America's "founding fathers" during the years following the Revolutionary War. The country was still considered a doomed experiment by most of the rest of the world and they faced unbelievable challenges. I think the author did an admirable job of trying to explain why they said and did certain things within the context of their time.

For example, this book includes a seriously thorough, nuanced discussion of the slavery problem. The union of the colonies as one nation would collapse if the newborn federal government tried to force the southern states to give up their slave-supported economic foundation, but the continued subjugation of hundreds of thousands of people was ethically incompatible with the very principles on which the Revolution was based.

That said, even at only 248 pages (not including notes and the index), this book is dense. I often had to read paragraphs two or even three times to decipher what the author was getting at. And right now I'm really trying to read for pleasure and relaxation because my work and personal life is a little hectic, so perhaps I ought to have waited a while to try this book. Oh, well. It is obviously well-researched and insightful, so my complaint in this case is not about the quality of the content -- it's the overly academic quality of the presentation.

Publication information: Ellis, Joseph. Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation. New York: Vintage Books, 2002. Print.

Source: Purchased from a library's used bookshop.

Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.

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