American History, Biography & Autobiography, Book Reviews, Civil War
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Ulysses S. Grant: The Unlikely Hero (Michael Korda)

This is a slight book, but it does not claim to be more. As a basic introduction to the life of Ulysses Grant, once the most famous person in the world and now essentially forgotten, it is very good. I am not qualified to judge the accuracy of the details, of which some other reviewers have complained. But it provides a clear and compelling outline of the man, in his roles as general, President and husband, and serves the important purpose of re-introducing him to modern Americans.

Korda’s book is marred, however, by his need to repetitively drag in tendentious comparisons between Grant and the second George Bush (without naming the latter), in order to criticize Bush’s conduct of the 2003 Iraq War. Korda’s book was published in 2004, and perhaps Korda thought that current references would somehow make the book fresh and topical. In such a short book, where every word counts, they are simply jarring and distracting. What’s worse, they come across as uninformed, because they’re dated, and they make Korda’s book seem dated.

If you don’t expect too much out of the book, and you can get over Korda’s need to put in political jabs, the book is a reasonable way to spend two hours.

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