Dreadful Reading

bookcover.phpAs a Revolutionary War fanatic, I was extremely excited to read To Try Men’s Souls by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and author William Forstchen.

Sadly, this post is a first on AdoptingJames. It is my first negative review.

I asked Sarabeth if I should even write a negative review since I’ve taken it upon myself to shed light on the great books/movies I discover. But my last book review shed light on dark patches on an otherwise raving review. Perhaps I’m heading in a new direction.

So here goes.

I dreaded every time I picked up Gingrich’s novel about Washington’s crossing the Delaware River. I tried to like it at first. Then I tried to tolerate it. The further I read, I tried to push through it. With twenty pages left I tried not to just cheat and close the book and declare it finished. But I made it. Truly.

And I’m not sure it was quite worth it.

First off, the author(s) jump sporadically between December 24th back to November 11th, to November 23rd, and at some point I’m sure they took us back to the previous summer of 1776, right back up to Christmas Eve. The chronology was jittery and had no real flow.

Now, consider this for a minute. George Washington is one of my ultimate favorite people who has ever walked the earth. I have been known to idolize him in a way Christians ought not to idolize any man. But Gingrich’s portrayal of the Great General did nothing for me. If you want a truly great testimony to George Washington’s life and character, check out instead, George Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow.

The surrounding fictional (and some other non-fictional) characters were also plastic-y and lacked depth and/or development. Though the writing was smooth (which I assume was composed mostly by Forstchen, who’s novel One Second After I greatly enjoyed), it lacked story, which made the writing talent inconsequential.

It felt like a movie that covered a topic of great interest, with clever and artistic cinematography, but filled with bad acting who’s lines were constructed by sloppy screenwriters.

To be fair, To Try Men’s Souls received an astonishing 4.4 stars on Amazon. So the chances of you loving this book is completely in your favor. The ratings prove that I’m actually in the minority that just couldn’t appreciate the book on any level.

Now, here’s the catcher. I had already received the sequel, Valley Forge, for Christmas two years ago. So I feel I am obligated (and damed) to read its successor. I wonder if Valley Forge will be worse. After all, so many chapters in Souls were spent in endless descriptions of the plight of the patriots trudging through the snow toward Trenton. At least there was a goal they were after. But in Valley Forge, historically speaking, the soldiers just all sort of sat there and froze all winter.

Well, I am an optimist when it comes to books. So I will attempt to read it, though I’m sure it will be like climbing Everest. I’ll let you know how it is in several months if I ever finish it (or start it).

Join me. If there’s a book that’s been sitting on your shelf collecting dust because you are just too afraid to touch it, let’s do it together. Who knows… maybe one of us will be surprised.


About Andrew Toy
I'm in the beginning stages of starting my own publishing company that's unlike anything you've ever heard of in the industry. The direction of AdoptingJames is taking a 90-degree turn and will be more writing/publishing-focused. Stay tuned for huge updates and exciting news!

4 Responses to Dreadful Reading

  1. gregmulka says:

    There is nothing wrong with writing a negative review. Especially when you list your reasons as you did. Reviews are always subjective and you can’t be faulted for what you like or dislike. Especially in a case like this where you were predisposed to like the book.
    And If I can make a recommendation about Valley Forge, if it starts much like this book did don’t punish yourself trying to finish. Just let it go.

    • Thank you for the permission to set it down if need be. I do tend to torture myself with bad books every once in a while as though finishing it is some great accomplishment.

  2. Just had to comment that I too, am a HUGE fan of George Washington. I have not yet read Chernow’s book, but I must say that I loved McCullough’s “1776”, Ellis’ “His Excellency”, and Flexner’s “The Indispensable Man”. Been to Mt. Vernon numerous times, taken the same tour, and have not once had the feeling of “been there, done that”. Incredible life. Incredible man. Definitely one to model. Thanks for your review. I would love to hear your take on “Valley Forge”. Personally have not read a book on the entirety of Valley Forge, rather, just the snippets we receive in other biographies, history books. God bless!

  3. Pingback: Historical Fiction, and My Next Book Announcement | adoptingjames

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