Grant by Ron Chernow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I wish Ron Chernow had enough time and energy to write biographies of every significant historical figure. With a storyteller's flair and a historian's conscience, he sifts through mountains of research and conflicting narratives to suss out the closest thing imaginable to the true story.
His gift is one of empathy. He inhabits and takes in the world in the way that he imagines his subjects might have, probing the records and media accounts to synthesize the feelings and inner mental workings of the time.
In the same superb way he deconstructed Lincoln, Washington and Hamilton, he takes on the stoic icon Grant, transforming him from a poker-faced general and president into a man teeming with insecurities and inner demons. Chernow takes a hard look at his alcoholism, which Grant shielded with intense ferocity.
Orchestrating the myriad forces that Grant navigated as he floated to the upper echelons of Guilded Age celebrity, Chernow explores the complicated relationships Grant had with the likes of Sherman, Twain and Garfield, making the giants of history seem as familiar as drinking buddies.
Throughout the exquisite prose, Grant emerges as a figure of tender ambition, deep care of his family, as well as humanity as a whole, and his careful stewardship of the legacy he built. It wouldn't surprise me if Grant -- for all his flaws and gullability -- was Chernow's favorite subject of all to date.
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