All Reviews

The Washingtons - UK Reviews

  • Mail on Sunday

    “Without the leadership of George Washington there might never have been an independent America, but it’s equally true to say that without the support of his wealthy wife Martha, Washington would never have made his mark. Flora Fraser paints a revealing portrait of a power couple who weren’t as much passionate lovers as dedicated companions.”

    – The Mail on Sunday, January 2017

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  • The Daily Mail

    “George Washington once wrote, ‘I have always considered marriage as the most interesting event of one’s life — the foundation of happiness or misery’. His own marriage was based on foundations both of practicality and affection. In 1758, Washington was a 26-year-old Colonel of the Virginia militia when he met a wealthy young widow with two children.

    Martha Dandridge Custis was also 26, with brown hair, hazel eyes and a fondness for fashionable clothes. Theirs was not necessarily a love match — just before their wedding, George wrote a clumsy but heartfelt love letter to a different lady — but he described his wife as ‘an agreeable Consort for Life’, and she was to prove a stalwart and devoted companion for four decades.

    Flora Fraser’s biography provides a fascinating glimpse into the private life of the first President of the United States, and the first ‘First Lady’.”

    – Jane Shilling, The Daily Mail, 3 November 2016

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  • The Daily Telegraph

    “In the century after George Washington’s death, a cult grew around the Father of the Nation: he appeared on stamps and dollar bills; cities and buildings were given his name. His wife, Martha, surplus to the myth’s requirements, faded from view. In this careful and unshowy biography, Fraser restores her to the American story.”

    – The Daily Telegraph, 29 October 2016

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  • The Times Literary Supplement

    “In ‘George & Martha Washington: A revolutionary marriage’, the noted historical biographer Flora Fraser aims to tell the story that Martha did not want told.  The author acknowledges that, thanks to the destruction of key evidence, she must approach her subject from an “oblique” angle, relying on letters the Washingtons wrote to others and on surviving contemporary accounts that mentioned their marriage.  This assiduous research succeeds in furnishing readers with a welter of fascinating details about the couple’s daily lives…”

    – Virginia DeJohn Anderson, The Times Literary Supplement, 3 February 2016

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  • Here’s To You, Mrs Washington

    “In this scrupulously researched book, [Flora Fraser] argues that while George may indeed have been the making of America, Martha was the making of George.  She didn’t just provide the money that enabled him to dedicate himself to the the revolutionary struggle, she was with him every step of the way.”

    – Kathryn Hughes, The Mail on Sunday, January 2016

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  • Literary Review

    “In her elegant account of their relationship, ‘George and Martha Washington: A Revolutionary Marriage’, Flora Fraser shows how false is the idea that, as she puts it, ‘men of destiny customarily bestride the world alone’. During the Washingtons’ lifetime, she comments no one ‘would have thought of ignoring Martha’.”

    – Lucy Moore, Literary Review, December 2015

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  • The Spectator

    “It’s a thrilling story, which Fraser begins in 1758, with Washington aged 26, built like Hercules, fighting off dysentery, and flirting with another man’s wife. A colonel in the Virginia regiment, he had, as he put it himself, ‘no prospect of preferment’ and no evident ambition. Enter Martha Dandridge Custis, a wealthy widow with two young children. She would, thought Washington, make ‘an agreeable partner’, which is not as dry an estimate as it sounds: having ‘good sense’, a ‘good disposition’ and the ‘means of supporting [him]’, Martha ticked Washington’s three main boxes. Her plainness, noted by everyone, counted among her virtues. She, on the other hand, fancied Washington straight away (‘an entire chapter,’ writes Fraser, ‘could be dedicated to the susceptibility of Eve… to Adam in military attire’). He was six foot two and straight as a rod. She was five foot nothing and round as a tub.”

    – Frances Wilson, The Spectator, December 2015

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  • The Lady

    “An intimate portrait of America’s original power couple.  As a wealthy 26-year-old widow, Martha Dandridge Custis attracted many suitors.  She chose the ambitious soldier George Washington.  Her fortune paved the way to his career in politics and she proved an ideal politician’s wife.  Although not especially passionate (a newlywed Washington described Martha as ‘an agreeable consort for life’), the marriage seems to have been happy.  Impeccably researched and entertaining.”

    The Lady, November 2015

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  • The Telegraph

    “A Revolutionary Marriage tells the story of a couple, a family, and a country with sympathy and huge skill; it is also beautifully illustrated. Fraser is a respectful biographer, scholarly, unshowy and unsensational. She does not attempt to fill the archival gaps with speculation, and is explicit about the things that remain unknowable.

    Fraser’s telling restores Martha Washington to the historical narrative, both as Mother of the Nation and a woman in her own right. Her complex portrait of Washington, meanwhile, frees him from the cult of hero-worship.  Rather, the general and president feels most alive not on the battlefield but as an attentive ( if slightly alarming) host, appearing in the middle of the night at the bedside of a cold-stricken and surprised visitor with a “bowl of hot tea”.”

    – Daisy Hay, The Telegraph, 30th November 2015

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  • The Sunday Times

    “Would George Washington have ever been commander of the revolutionary army or president of the United States, if he had not married the rich widow of Mr Custis?” wondered John Adams in 1816. As Flora Fraser observes in her portrait of the Washingtons, it was a fair question.”

    – Dominic Sandbrook, The Sunday Times, 26th November 2015

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  • Top 10 history titles for this autumn

    Flora’s book ‘The Washingtons: George and Martha, ‘Join’d by Friendship, Crown’d by Love’ was featured by Bryan Appleyard as one of the top 10 history titles for this autumn in his article ‘About face’, published in the London Sunday Times Culture section on 6th September 2015.

  • Amanda Foreman, author of A World on Fire

    “Flora Fraser’s The Washingtons is a vivid and intimate history of America’s first First Family. For those who have ever wondered what George would have been without Martha, and how Martha would have fared without George, this book provides the answer and much else besides. With her usual flair and grace, Fraser proves the old adage that no man is an island, particularly when it comes to achieving great success.”

    – Amanda Foreman, author of A World on Fire