Inventing George Washington by Edward G. Lengel – Book Review

Inventing George Washington by Edward G. Lengel
Published by Harper, an imprint of Harper Collins

Perhaps no American has inspired as many myths and legends as George Washington. He chopped down a cherry tree, he fathered a child on one of his slaves, he was an incredibly religious man, he was offered the monarchy of this new country, he slept about a million places, he was all but a god in mortal clothing, he was all too human. There are nearly as many American myths about Washington as there are Americans, and each age of our country has seen a new iteration of the man.

In “Inventing George Washington,” Edward G. Lengel explores the myths that have grown around Washington in the over 200 since the founding of the country. Particularly interesting is the idea that are the country’s mores and national mood changed, so did the recreation of the Washington legend. Washington as a reflection of the country’s self-identification is a very interesting idea, and is explored very well throughout Lengel’s work. In fact, the content in general is fascinating. However, the writing, while not precisely dry, lacks a certain spark that would make the book truly engaging. The prose is serviceable, to be sure, but does not command the sort of fascination that might be expected.

I am slightly divided on “Inventing George Washington,” Lengel certainly knows his material and presents it in a clear and concise manner, but the writing leaves just a little something to be desired.

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4 comments to Inventing George Washington by Edward G. Lengel – Book Review

  • The premise of this is really interesting. I love that it explores how his mythology has changed over the years as the country has changed. Too bad that it needed a little more oomph. Sounds like it might be worth getting through for the information.

  • When the kids and I took that field trip to DC, Mount Vernon and Williamsburg last November, we heard alot of this. Debunking the stuff we learned in grade school, like the wooden teeth, and chopping down the cherry tree. I’ve always been interested in the man, but that trip refueled it. I have considered reading that book out right now called Washington by Chernov (I think?).

  • Meg

    Washington is definitely a mythical American figure — so much so that he almost feels like a character to me! It’s hard to believe he truly was a man. I’ve visited Mt. Vernon several times with my family and am definitely fascinated by him. Sounds like an interesting read, though it’s too bad the writing wasn’t more compelling!

  • Think I’m still going to give this one a try, even with it’s short comings, after having recently finished Ron Chernow’s Washington: A Life.