You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington

Viking. Feb. 2020. 304p. ISBN 9780735224100. $27. BIOG
Coe (Alice + Freda Forever) makes a compelling case that George Washington (1732–99), esteemed for his part in the Revolutionary War and for becoming the first U.S. president, is more of a historical giant than a knowable persona. Based on primary sources, this accessible, humorous work casts Washington in a personal light. Coe details significant events in Washington’s life while debunking long-held myths, such as the legend of the cherry tree (that he damaged his father’s tree but was honest about it). Using historical details, Coe draws a portrait of the Founding Father through which both his strengths and flaws emerge, along with his patience, and, when provoked, his temper. Coe strikes the ideal balance in her representation of Washington: Neither god nor devil, he was a man who made mistakes as well as strong decisions, and both were often on a grand scale.
VERDICT An adept, highly approachable read that will appeal to history buffs and anyone seeking a compact overview of the man and the myth.
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