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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Review: 'Bunker Hill'

Bunker Hill
By Nathaniel Philbrick
History (Revolutionary War)
April 2013
Viking
ISBN: 978-0670025442

When readers speak of falling into a book and living in it, they usually refer to fiction. But it also applies to the experience of reading Nathaniel Philbrick's masterful account of Bunker Hill. Beginning with a young John Quincy Adams and his mother, Abigail, watching the battle that claimed the life of patriot and valued family friend Dr. Joseph Warren, to the epilogue of John Quincy as an old man who disdains platitudes in favor of action, Bunker Hill is a marvel of rich narrative.

Philbrick weaves together small details about real people and what they actually did, including troop movements, strategizing by military leaders and actions of individuals brought into what inevitably became a revolution. Philbrick also compelling describes how the disagreements and disgruntlements became that revolution, making clear that neither rebellion or an American victory were foregone conclusions. Little moments had major consequences in both battle and off the field.

Bunker Hill is one of those rare histories that is carefully researched but which never shows it. All the information fits together. Philbrick also is adept at answering questions for readers as they come up -- why did this happen? why did this not happen?

Both as a primer of what actually happened at the battle known as Bunker Hill, although it is hoped most American readers know that's not where it happened, and as a detailed reminder of how the American Revolution got underway, Philbrick's history is well worth reading.

©2014 All Rights Reserved CompuServe Books Reviews and reprinted with permission

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