Review: You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington

You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington
by Alexis Coe
In her introduction Alexis Coe laments the often stiff treatment biographers give our "foundingest father". George Washington was a man of self control, trying hard never to show his cards or exhibit too much emotion. Martha Washington burned all the letters between her and her husband, closing a door for history to peer into she and George's private lives. The result, says Coe, has been a series of biographies that fall prey to building up George (and sometimes tearing down those around him). With You Never Forget Your First Coe seeks to step back from the hagiography and present Washington in a more accessible way to modern readers.

She succeeds wonderfully. This is a scholarly, well researched book that is written with a light touch. The book has a number of tables that convey information that in other biographies take up chapters. At slightly over 200 pages (without the Notes), this is a quick and enjoyable biography of Washington.

As the first female author to write a biography of Washington aimed at adults in more than 40 years, Coe provides a fresh take on his mother and his wife and helps us understand what male historians have likely gotten wrong about them. Later in the book, she also provides detail on Washington's slaves, what their life was like, and gives a clear perspective on the freeing of his slaves provided for in his will (it's not as rosy as you might like to think).

I give You Never Forget Your First 4 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐ - I really liked it and was glad I read it. If you are not a fan of historical biographies or much interested in learning about early American history, you ought to give it a try - I think you'd really like this book. It is an enjoyable read - I'm surprised the number of times this book put a smile on my face. For those who are well versed in early American history, I think you'll like it too, as a refreshing overview of Washington's life. I recommend it.

I checked out both the audiobook and the ebook. I recommend the ebook for the tables - they lose a little "in translation" when read in the audiobook.

On the other hand, it is amazing how well the tables are integrated into the reading in the audiobook, and the narrator Brittany Pressley does an outstanding job. No wonder Audible awarded it Best History Audiobook of 2020.

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