Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell narrated by the author
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication Date: 2015
Length: 8 hours, 7 minutes
From the publisher:
From the bestselling author of Assassination Vacation and Unfamiliar Fishes, a humorous account of the Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette—the one Frenchman we could all agree on—and an insightful portrait of a nation’s idealism and its reality.
On August 16, 1824, an elderly French gentlemen sailed into New York Harbor and giddy Americans were there to welcome him. Or, rather, to welcome him back. It had been thirty years since the Revolutionary War hero the Marquis de Lafayette had last set foot in the United States, and he was so beloved that 80,000 people showed up to cheer for him. The entire population of New York at the time was 120,000.
Lafayette’s arrival in 1824 coincided with one of the most contentious presidential elections in American history, Congress had just fought its first epic battle over slavery, and the threat of a Civil War loomed. But Lafayette, belonging to neither North nor South, to no political party or faction, was a walking, talking reminder of the sacrifices and bravery of the revolutionary generation and what they wanted this country to be. His return was not just a reunion with his beloved Americans, it was a reunion for Americans with their own astonishing singular past.
Lafayette in the Somewhat United States is a humorous and insightful portrait of the famed Frenchman, the impact he had on our young country, and his ongoing relationship with some of the instrumental Americans of the time, including George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and many more.
The Hubster and I took a road trip last weekend so that meant I needed to pick an audiobook that was 9 hours at the longest. I checked my playlist and realized I had this book but we hadn’t listened to it yet. The Hubster was pleased because we’ve listened to other books by Sarah Vowell and he likes them just as much as I do.
This is a bit of history, a bit of humor, a bit of travel journal, and great touches of sarcasm. I learned a lot while listening to this book. I didn’t remember much of my history of the American Revolution and what I did remember skipped over a lot of what happened during the war.
There were a couple of lines that cracked us both up. It was in the section where she was talking about Henry Knox and his mission to get the weapons and Fort Ticonderoga and bring them back to the siege of Boston. Knox had abandoned his bookshop when he and his wife left Boston and he joined the militia.
Enter Henry Knox. The twenty-five-year-old bookworm approached Washington and volunteered to go to Fort Ticonderoga to fetch the equipment. Washington approved the cockamamie mission. And so, that November Knox and his brother set off for New York. Who knew they would return in January with forty-three cannons, fourteen mortars, and two howitzers dragged across frozen rivers and over the snowy Berkshire Mountains on custom sleds. The is the derivation of that old Yankee proverb that if you can sell a book, you can move sixty tons of weaponry three hundred miles in winter.
So the moral of that story, other than never underestimate an independent bookseller, was that the Continental Army and its commander in chief had a soft spot for Chief Artillery Officer Henry Knox.
Sarah Vowell has a very distinctive voice and speaking style. She’s not for everyone so if you haven’t heard her you should listen to a sample of her narration first. I personally enjoy listening to her narrate her own books. I can’t imagine any other narrator would be able to strike just the right tone of snark at the right places.
It’s fun history and great for road trips.
4.5/5 for the book
4/5 for the narration