All Reviews

The Washingtons - US Reviews

  • McEnearney

    The Washingtons was published in 2015 to the tune of critics and scholars alike singing its praises in unison. Covering our first president’s public life and accomplishments is common, and has been presented in many literary pieces throughout history, but the thoroughness with which Fraser examined the marriage bonds between Washington and his Mrs. is unrivaled.

    – McEnearney, 23 July 2016

  • American Spirit Magazine

    “To the everlasting dismay of historians and biographers, when George Washington died, his devoted wife of 40 years burned their correspondence.  What we know of their life together comes mostly from other sources, including tantalizingly brief comments in letters from Martha and George to others.

    Despite such an obstacle, biographer Flora Fraser has constructed a well-rounded, insightful portrait of their relationship in her new book, The Washingtons: George and Martha, “Joined by Friendship, Crown’d by Love” (Alfred A Knopf, 2015).”

    American Spirit, March / April 2016

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  • The Missourian

    “In this impressive and highly readable dual biography, historian Flora Fraser has added an absorbing portrayal of George and Martha Washington and their extended family to the catalog of books on early American icons. Despite the limited documentation still in existence about their private lives, through extensive research, Fraser has garnered enough information to compose a consequential story of their relationship.”

    – Bill Schwab, The Missourian, February 2016

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  • The New York Times

    “Fraser, an accomplished biographer who writes with great ease and wit, quickly alerts us to her predicament, confessing that her book “is necessarily an oblique look at the Washingtons’ marriage.” Can we, from this perspective, really tell whether George and Martha were, as Fraser’s subtitle insists, “join’d by friendship, crown’d by love”? She supports the truth of this phrase, taken from an inscription on the back of a miniature portrait of Martha, “through the medium of their correspondence with others, and through contemporaries’ descriptions of their relationship.” The Washington family account books offer additional insights. To provide a context for the Washingtons’ marriage — and, quite frankly, to fill pages — Fraser also includes descriptions of the social and political life of the colonies. Fortunately, these passages are interesting, and are likely to keep readers engaged while they wait for more snippets of information about George and Martha’s partnership.”

    – Annette Gordon-Reed, The New York Times, 4th December 2015

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  • The Boston Globe

    “The publication of two works by accomplished biographers — “The Washingtons’’ by Flora Fraser and “Lady Bird and Lyndon’’ by Betty Boyd Caroli — do much to fill in these blank pages of presidential history.

    Together these books, equally smartly written and devoid of gossip and cant, remind us that, as another presidential couple, Woodrow and Edith, proved in the last years of the Wilson administration nearly a full century ago, national leadership is a joint appointment — two for the price of one, in the unfortunate phrase that Clinton used in 1992 when defending the large role he contemplated for Hillary.”

    – David M. Shribman, The Boston Globe, 21st November 2015

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  • Wall Street Journal

    “In “The Washingtons,” an ambitious, well-researched and highly readable dual biography, Flora Fraser has worked hard, despite the limited documentation that is available, to portray George and Martha, and their extended family, as fully rounded, flesh-and-blood people, freeing them from the heavy brocade of hagiography.”

    – Fergus M. Bordewich, Wall Street Jounal, November 13th, 2015

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  • Time

    “It’s a self-evident truth that George Washington set precedents. In her new book The Washingtons, a biography of America’s founding marriage, Flora Fraser makes the less evident point that Martha Washington set some too and that together they paved the way for First Couples to follow.”

    – Lily Rothman, Time, 23 November, 2015

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  • Spotlight: Supporting Roles in History

    “Flora Fraser’s new biography, The Washingtons: George and Martha, “Join’d by Friendship, Crown’d by Love”, is a dense but fascinating account of the nation’s first “first couple.” Using letters, journals, dispatches and a variety of authoritative texts, the British author documents George and Martha’s comings and goings as they managed his Mount Vernon estate and dealt with a host of relatives, friends and politicians.”

    –Alice Cary, BookPage

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  • Library Journal

    “Without editorializing, Fraser presents a moving portrayal of the first couple’s devoted relationship, their domestic concerns, and a valuable depiction of upper-class 18th-century life that will appeal to readers of popular history.”

    – Margaret Kappanadze, Elmira Coll. Lib., NY

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  • Barbara Hoagland, The King’s English

    “Much has been written about George Washington, but Fraser’s examination of the marriage between George and Martha is unique. Their decade’s long marriage was punctuated by revolution, the creation of a new country and personal tragedy. Through the years their love and admiration for each other was apparent to all who knew them and Fraser has done a commendable job of revealing how they leaned on each other. Whether it was domestic issues or a recalcitrant Continental Congress, George and Martha looked to each other for advice and sustenance. Fraser’s book is a revealing look at both the Mother and Father and the Nation.”

    – Barbara Hoagland, The King’s English, Salt Lake City, UT

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  • Historical Readings & Reviews

    “A major, and vastly appealing, contribution to the literature of our founding fathers…and founding mother.”

    – Blogger, Historical Readings & Reviews

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  • Publishing News, New York City

    Flora Fraser approaches Washington’s time as a soldier from another perspective in The Washingtons: George & Martha, “Join’d by Friendship, Crown’d by Love” (Knopf, Nov.). Fraser, author of a well-received biography of a sister of Napoleon, Pauline Bonaparte: Venus of Empire (Knopf, 2009), follows up on John Adams’s question of two centuries ago: “Would Washington ever have been commander of the revolutionary army, or president of the United States, if he had not married the rich widow of Mr. Custis?”

    Her answer is no, and, in a narrative that draws extensively on the couple’s correspondence, she looks at Washington’s waging of war, and how the lessons he learned carried over into the presidency. Fraser says that she was surprised to learn that “Martha went to Washington every winter of the long war, when the fighting season was over, sharing with him the various privations—scant food, blizzards, and the dearth of hope—that existed at those camps.”

    – Lenny Picker, author in New York City

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  • H. W. Brands, author of Reagan

    “In this charmingly insightful dual biography, Flora Fraser makes a compelling case that America’s first First Couple was its first power couple. Martha Washington here emerges from her husband’s historical shadow to reclaim the place she occupied in life as his indispensable collaborator in war and peace. An important story delightfully told.”

    – H. W. Brands, author of Reagan

  • Robert Middlekauff, author The Glorious Cause

    “In The Washingtons, Flora Fraser has provided an insightful portrait in elegant prose with a dash of wit. The book is based on a mastery of the original sources and brings to life, with much imagination, a wonderful marriage in a period of revolution and war. It is written with a light touch, but is a serious account in every respect. This is a book worthy of its subject.”

    – Robert Middlekauff, author of The Glorious Cause

  • Booklist Online, June 2005

    Ron Chernow’s magisterial Washington (Penguin, 2010) gave us an extremely well rounded portrait of our greatest national icon. A member of a highly regarded British family of biographers and historians now treats us to a more specific aspect of Washington’s life in a fresh and highly informative view of Washington the husband. Along with Mary Todd Lincoln, Martha Washington is the most familiar of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century First Ladies, and Fraser’s graceful, incisive portrait extends our knowledge of her. The author sees husband and wife as halves of a highly workable partnership that brought great emotional sustenance and security to them both. Martha was a wealthy widow when she married George, but any notion of opportunism on his part quickly dissolves in the face of Fraser’s affirming depiction of Martha’s unceasing care for George’s well-being and his abiding interest in the welfare of her children and grandchildren from her previous marriage. The adage that says behind every strong man stands a strong woman is validated here.

    Brad Hooper

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