Ron Chernow’s Grant is monumental in its scope, yet remains a biography of one man. Chernow is deft at painting the big picture of Grant’s life, while still maintaining intimacy with his subject. And Grant is a study of contrasts that are hard to reconcile.
In civilian life U.S. Grant was a failure. He had no business sense, and for most of his life he was taken in by unscrupulous friends. War was his element. He was a dogged general, who realized that the fight with the south would be a total war of attrition, and did not shy away from fighting that way, regardless of casualties.
His two terms as president were beset by scandal, but without him at the helm it is unlikely Reconstruction would have lasted as long as it did.
Chernow’s biography is an exacting and detailed portrait of this American giant with soft underbelly.