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Grant

By: Ron Chernow

Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group

Imprint: Penguin Press

Format: Hardcover | ISBN: 9781594204876

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On Sale: | Pages: 1104

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Pulitzer Prize winner Ron Chernow returns with a sweeping and dramatic portrait of one of our most compelling generals and presidents, Ulysses S. Grant.   Ulysses S. Grant's life has typically been misunderstood. All too often he is caricatured as a chronic loser and an inept businessman, or as the triumphant but brutal Union general of the Civil War. But these stereotypes don't come close to capturing him, as Chernow sows in his masterful biography, the first to provide a complete understanding of the general and president whose fortunes rose and fell with dizzying speed and frequency.   Before the Civil War, Grant was flailing. His business ventures had ended dismally, and despite distinguished service in the Mexican War he ended up resigning from the army in disgrace amid recurring accusations of drunkenness. But in war, Grant began to realize his remarkable potential, soaring through the ranks of the Union army, prevailing at the battle of Shiloh and in the Vicksburg campaign, and ultimately defeating the legendary Confederate general Robert E. Lee. Along the way, Grant endeared himself to President Lincoln and became his most trusted general and the strategic genius of the war effort. Grant’s military fame translated into a two-term presidency, but one plagued by corruption scandals involving his closest staff members. More important, he sought freedom and justice for black Americans, working to crush the Ku Klux Klan and earning the admiration of Frederick Douglass, who called him “the vigilant, firm, impartial, and wise protector of my race.” After his presidency, he was again brought low by a dashing young swindler on Wall Street, only to resuscitate his image by working with Mark Twain to publish his memoirs, which are recognized as a masterpiece of the genre.   With lucidity, breadth, and meticulousness, Chernow finds the threads that bind these disparate stories together, shedding new light on the man whom Walt Whitman described as “nothing heroic... and yet the greatest hero.” Chernow’s probing portrait of Grant's lifelong struggle with alcoholism transforms our understanding of the man at the deepest level. This is America's greatest biographer, bringing movingly to life one of our finest but most underappreciated presidents. The definitive biography, Grant is a grand synthesis of painstaking research and literary brilliance that makes sense of all sides of Grant's life, explaining how this simple Midwesterner could at once be so ordinary and so extraordinary.
Chernow has painted a vivid and engrossing portrait of Grant. Regardless of how one views his portrayal, his skill as a biographer cannot be denied. As ongoing debates over certain historical events remind us, history is often subject to revision. GRANT may be an opening salvo in taking a new view on the life of this iconic American.
—Bookreporter.com
This is a good time for Ron Chernow's fine biography of Ulysses S. Grant to appear, as we live with the reality of Faulkner's declaration, “The past is never dead, it's not even past.”... In so many ways “Grant” comes to us now as much a mirror as a history lesson. As history, it is remarkable, full of fascinating details sure to make it interesting both to those with the most cursory knowledge of Grant's life and to those who have read his memoirs or any of several previous biographies.... For all its scholarly and literary strengths, this book's greatest service is to remind us of Grant's significant achievements at the end of the war and after, which have too long been overlooked and are too important today to be left in the dark.... Chernow shows a fine balance in exposing Grant's flaws and missteps as president, and the ill-fated turn that Reconstruction took after a promising start, while making it clear that Grant's contributions after Appomattox were as consequential to the survival of our democracy as any that came before.
—New York Times
Like Chernow's earlier door-stoppers, “Washington” and “Hamilton” among them, “Grant” is a biography that demands the unconditional surrender of its readers. Calling it “thorough” and “detailed” is a polite way of saying that it is very, very long. Still, I willingly submitted as the author escorted me through this man's up-and-down trajectory. Grant was far more complicated, and thus more interesting, than we were ever taught.
—San Francisco Chronicle
“Grant” is much livelier than this author's “Alexander Hamilton.”... Chernow is clearly out to find undiscovered nobility in his story, and he succeeds; he also finds uncannily prescient tragedy. There are ways in which Grant's times eerily resemble our own.... “Grant” is vast and panoramic in ways that history buffs will love. Books of its caliber by writers of Chernow's stature are rare, and this one qualifies as a major event. Chernow grapples with an enormous amount of material, while mostly sustaining a tight focus.... Chernow's indispensable book, which attempts to see Grant's life as a triumph, is also steeped in tragedy.
—New York Times
Chernow's deep dive on Ulysses S. Grant may defy the odds — just as the Union's Civil War general and our 18th president overcame his humble origins, inward personality, the demons of drink and scandal to emerge an American paragon.... Chernow's exhaustive research and nuanced assessments portray a Grant who struggled with alcohol at key points in his life, but who rose, superbly, to the challenges of war and executive leadership, shouldering the cause of civil rights in the late glow of Lincoln.... Still, this anvil of a book — at nearly a thousand pages of narrative — may prove a lumbering journey for casual consumers of American history, even though Chernow writes with grace and builds momentum. But where his Hamilton sprang freshly from the page in all his exotic, mercurial, nation-inventing dimension, Chernow's Grant must remain the stolid, deeply shadowed figure of past biography.
—USA Today
...a magnificent book by distinguished biographer Ron Chernow. Indeed, after reading this deeply researched and superbly written volume, the reader will understand why Walt Whitman put Grant, along with Washington, Lincoln, and Ralph Waldo Emerson in his personal pantheon of great Americans.... Chernow's special gift is to present a complete and compelling picture of his subjects. His biographies do not offer up marble deities on a pedestal; he gives us flesh and blood human beings and helps us understand what made them tick.
—Christian Science Monitor
As readers of Mr. Chernow's best-selling lives of George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and others know, he is a compelling storyteller. Much of the story he sets out to tell here may by now seem familiar, but he adds rich detail and brings to vivid life the reticent, unprepossessing but resolute man whom Walt Whitman called “nothing heroic...and yet the greatest hero.”
—Wall Street Journal
To rise above craftsmanship, one must work with abundant, varied and complicated facts. Chernow does that, presenting research that bulks Grant to nearly 1,000 pages of narrative. It allows him to write a rich and sensitive portrait of the inner Grant — from reluctant West Point cadet to civilian failure to triumphant general. He exhaustively investigates Grant's alcoholism and fraught relationships with his family. I admire Chernow's honesty about contradictory evidence as well as Grant's mistakes.... As a historian, Chernow proves somewhat uneven. His research into Grant's struggles with alcohol would be better if he discussed the scale and intensity of the temperance movement; that would explain contemporaries' obsession with drink and Grant's personal shame. Chernow's account of Grant's military career, however, works well, particularly in exploring his closest relationships.... Every biography is a broken mirror, reflecting the past inexactly. But Chernow shows where a seemingly small distortion obscures something important.... Telling a story through scenes, the creation of expectations, the techniques of mystery and suspense, not to mention rhythm and lyricism — this belongs in a biography of Tolstoy as much as in Tolstoy's “War and Peace.” Unfortunately, Chernow makes little use of these tools.
—Washington Post
...[a] masterful and often poignant biography, a 1,000-page brick of a book that nevertheless moves quickly — much like its subject in war — and persuasively upends the conventional take on Gen. Grant as a butcher on the battlefield and President Grant as a bumbler in the White House.... The Civil War years comprise the best part of Chernow's book, a familiar tale that nonetheless becomes gripping in his telling.... Chernow's gracefully written biography, which promises to be the definitive work on Grant for years to come, is fully equal to the man's remarkable story.
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
Chernow — author of the great biography that inspired the musical “Hamilton” and winner of the Pulitzer for his biography of Washington — devotes most of his book to dismantling two of the most damaging myths involving Grant: that he was a thoughtless butcher as a general and an incompetent leader amid the corruption marring his two terms as president.... Reading this compelling book, it's hard to imagine that we'll continue to define Grant by these scandals rather than all he accomplished in winning the war and doing his best to make peace, on inclusive terms that would be fair to all. No president after Lincoln and before Lyndon Johnson did so much for civil rights. It was the bravest and hardest of many battles this great general fought.
—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Chernow rewards the reader with considerable life-and-times background, clear-eyed perspective, sympathy that stops short of sycophancy, and gritty and intimate details, not the least of which is a description of the general's breakfast of a cucumber soaked in vinegar during the Battle of the Wilderness.... In this era, when the meaning, impact, and statues of the Civil War-era are undergoing fresh evaluation, Grant very likely will emerge unscathed. The Chernow biography assures his place in the American pantheon for decades to come.
—Boston Globe
Treating each phase of Grant's life with breathtaking depth and propelled by a range of sources, "Grant" swells to nearly 1,000 pages; it's a demanding but essential read.... There would be many second thoughts about Grant, whose military and political record was subjected to an acid scrutiny. Chernow, however, convincingly restores Grant to the pantheon of great Americans.
—Newsday
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