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To Try Men's Souls: A Novel of George Washington and the Fight for American Freedom

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 120 Customer Reviews
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  • Posted September 30, 2009

    The true cost of freedom...

    I *still* have a hard time associating Newt Gingrich with books instead of with government, but I'm getting over it after having read many of his historical novels. The latest one he's produced is titled To Try Men's Souls: A Novel of George Washington and the Fight for American Freedom, written along with William R. Forstchen. The American Revolution is not my normal reading fare, but sometimes you go with a book just because of the author's past work. That's what happened here, and I'm glad I did. Gingrich and Forstchen put real flesh, blood, pain, and emotions behind a pivotal battle for our independence, in a way that puts the history books to shame.

    To Try Men's Souls takes place in the month before Christmas of 1776, the time of the infamous river crossing portrayed in paint. The soldiers of the Revolution (if you could call them that) were frozen, hungry, diseased, and near death. The English, with assistance from the Hessians, had the war nearly won. They could have ended America's fledgling democracy had they continued to push forward for only a couple more days. But they chose to avoid the horrible weather and celebrate Christmas. General Washington gambled all he had left and marched the troops (or what remained of them) through ice and snow, many barefoot, to have the one last battle at Trenton. Much to his amazement, they were able to surprise the English troops and took the city with nearly no casualties on their part. That's not to say that the battle was won without cost... Many died in the following days from the ravages of disease that overtook them. But the tide had been turned, and history records what happened from there.

    The story in the novel follows General George Washington, Thomas Paine, and a private in the army, Jonathan Van Dorn. Through their eyes, you see the doubt, the hope, the despair and suffering. Washington shows compassion for his men, knowing he has little choice but to risk their lives to gain freedom from England. Paine is looked to as the inspiration for a nation with his words, but he's at a loss to explain how much freedom costs, and how it's killing those around him. Van Dorn is the young lad who believes in what they are doing, what they stand for, regardless of the personal hell he's going through to fight for those ideals. These are the stories that get glossed over in the history books. These are the stories that help you understand and appreciate what we have been given in this country. Granted, the actual words and thoughts are "historical fiction", but the color and flavor is not.

    The only aspect of the book that I though was not great was the pacing at certain points. Even though the book covers a month of time, much of the action is spent marching in snow and ice... and crossing rivers... and trying to sleep... before more marching in snow and ice... I still found the overall story riveting, but at times I wanted something more to happen than simply another description of how cold it was and how much the soldiers were suffering. Even so, To Try Men's Souls: A Novel of George Washington and the Fight for American Freedom is one of those books that gives you a deeper appreciation for a certain historical event, and makes you see everything at a whole new level of understanding.

    12 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Price of Freedom

    I am afraid that those who read this book and truly appreciate its message are a dying breed in this nation. One must possess an appreciation for the actual cost of freedom and the necessity to preserve it in order to truly embrace the message the authors were trying to convey. I am glad that I read the book and I had a personal motivation to do so. One of my great grandfathers fought and was wounded in the Revolution and was with George Washington at Valley Forge. I wanted to be able to visualize what he must have gone through fighting for what I enjoy today. May we never lose sight of the treasure we have in the USA. FREEDOM....LIBERTY and those that fight to preserve it.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2009

    To Try Men's Souls

    My feet still ache with cold after reading the book. The narrative captures the pain and suffering those men experienced during the American Revolution. Indeed, those were times that did try men's souls as well as their health, their mettle, and their bravery. The book presumes that the reader is familiar with Paine's Common Sense and if not, the thread weaves one though the history of the time so that Paine's call to arms makes complete sense. A superb wordsmith, Paine's importance to American history cannot be ignored.
    One issue that bothered me a bit was the continual scene change, back and forth time wise. I found myself having to go back in the book to clarify the timeline. I suspect that is my problem, as I tend to think linearly.
    I feel I know George Washington better than before but not as well as the young soldier Jonathan or some of the other characters in the novel. Washington's self talk was not as colorful as some soldier's rum soaked chatter.
    I read the book on a trip through the Panama Canal and I could not help but appreciate the historical significance of the American Revolution's impact on the future activities of the United States, both foreign and domestic. I have a hunch that Teddy Roosevelt was very familiar with Washington's military strategies.
    A quote midway through the book- "Thus it has always been. The labor is done by the few, and later many can lay claim to the bounty" was cause for a poignant moment of reflection.
    The book is in the "can't put it down" category and has my highest recommendation.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 18, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Terrific & Timeless Book

    In writing "To Try Men's Souls," authors Newt Gingrich and William Fortschen have done a masterful job of piecing together General George Washington's Christmas day attack against the Hessians, accurately coordinating Washington's narratives with his army's movement, the historical time of day and the topographical challenges that were faced, as the Revolution pushed forward.

    All good stories must carry a strong rollercoaster of emotions. In the book's multi-narrative structure, we go from following Washington, as he and his men slog through miles of mud, their bare and wounded feet leaving trails of blood, to following Colonel Rall, a leader of the opposing Hessian forces, whose troops sit in the comfort of warm fires. Rall's hatred towards America is documented well, as the story speaks of the Hessians imprisoning American soldiers and humiliating them, with various public displays of horror.

    Thus, as our American forces close in on Trenton, where a hungover Hessian army awaits, sleepy from Christmas Eve celebrations, our bloodlust is satisfied! We feast on the fainted Hessians, vigorously gunning them down and crushing their skulls!

    It is a strong emotional point - after wading through freezing water, with no boots, no food, and spending the entire evening in sub-zero temperatures, our thoughts become that of pure animal - we want these Hessians to die. We feel it.

    Vengeance - an desire difficult to capture, written perfectly by the authors.

    However, let it be noted that our American forces quickly fed and took care of those Hessians that surrendered. We are "Americans" after all, is what Washington tells the Hessian leaders, who are surprised at his American mercy.

    The second notable reason to read this book is that of Washington's leadership. I offer a special point - author Newt Gingrich, arguably, is the most accomplished Congressman who has ever served.

    Consider this fact - no modern American President, with the exception of George W. Bush, has ever seen his Party make gains in both the House and Senate. By outlining the "Contract With America" and coordinating hundreds of Republican campaigns under one umbrella, Gingrich architected the most successful political victory of our times, capturing both the House and Senate in 1994.

    In turn, the book beautifully shares Washington's anecdotes on leadership. At one point, Washington, with a group of men watching, is told that the storms ahead are too harsh and that the march should be abandoned; without missing a beat, Washington quickly announces that the storm is a "blessing" from God that will further relax the Hessians, thus favoring his men's chances. My suspicions are that Gingrich is sharing with us his best lessons on leadership through the narrative of Washington - the psychology behind a true leader, as written by a tested leader.

    Lastly, I share the most beautiful line from the book:

    "This day had united them. No longer, at least for this moment, were they Virginians and Marylanders, men of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New York. They were comrades, united by the shared bond of blood, suffering, and, at last, this victory. They were the army of these United States of America."

    To truly appreciate the paragraph above, the men whose feet bled from Pennsylvania to Trenton, in pursuit of not just a Hessian army, but a dream of liberty - to truly appreciate it, one will have to read the entire book.

    Muhammad Ali Hasan

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 30, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Remind yourself pf what it means to be an American

    This was a terrific novel. We are Washingto, Thoman Paine in the night and early morning of December 26th as Washington set out to cross the Delaware. To read of the struggle that these men went through in order to give all of us the liberties that we have now was a wonderful experience. It really places our current problems into perspective. These men went through so much, sacrificeid so much, and at that time, freedom was just an illusion. Most American had already given up on the idea and were convinced the British would would continue to rule the American colonies. By their efforts, against all odds, these men defined, and continue to do so, what it means to be an American. God knows we need to be reminded of that right now.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 23, 2009

    Passionate and Patriotic

    I felt I was there on that fateful night. A night that should not have turned out the way it did. It's about General Washington, Thomas Paine and Jonathan Van Dorn and how their lives are intertwined in their fight for a new country and independence. Such an inspirational story. One that makes me so proud to be an American. I loved how the characters came to life and you really felt for each of them and their plight. Can not wait to read Newt's and Bill's next book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 4, 2009

    RE: Duthburt's review...

    "They could have ended America's fledgling democracy had they continued to push forward for only a couple more days."
    It was a republic.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    a fun way to learn about the revolutionery war

    "to try mens souls" is a very exellent book and even though it is a novel both of the writers give the readers a new way to learn about the revolutionery war . newt gingrich and wm forstchen follow several members of the members of washingtons armey and we get to know all of the historical events through their eyes and their lifes . this bestseller also brings alive such nobel characters as washington and patrick henrey this is a real fun and historic way to learn about some of the most important events of american history. great gift idea for a friend or family member or school library or soldier serving over seas

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 18, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Pivotal Players in America's Revolutionary War Presented in a Powerful Portrayal

    With their latest historical fiction, Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen vividly capture in "To Try Men's Souls" the hazards and heartaches encountered by historic luminaries General George Washington, Thomas Paine, and Dr. Benjamin Rush during the Revolutionary War.

    The most interesting portrayal is that of Thomas Paine as he struggles with past demons to draft his pamphlets to rouse the resistance against Britain. In addition, suspense was effectively applied to build up to the battle at Trenton. I constantly felt the tension in the possibility of a confrontation between the rebels, German, and British soldiers happening at any moment. Furthermore, character development and the setting were well presented albeit there were times the reality the soldiers were cold, anxious, and homesick was repeated too much. Gingrich and Forstchen can trust that the reader gets the implications of the winter storm and soldier's conditions after they are first introduced in each chapter. The incessant reminder of each bogs down the pace of the prose for the sake of page numbers.

    I recommend this book as an opportunity to experience the earnestness and exasperation soldiers felt on both sides of the battlefield in some of the most harrowing days of the Revolutionary War.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 24, 2012

    Just like walking next to America's heroes

    At first I felt this had too much detai...but as I was reading through it I realized that I felt I was part of the arduous trek to Trenton. With so much detail I started to feel I was walking side by side with these brave soldiers and got just a HINT of the suffering that our brave Continental soldiers experienced... Who in today's times would walk countless miles in frozen, slushy roads, IN BARE BLEEDING feet, without getting paid for months and.... against the World's most formidable Army? I am amazed at the courage and commitment of our Revolutionary fathers and the sacrifices they made... sacrifices that we will never ever begin to fully appreciate.

    A GREAT read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 31, 2012

    Another great book from these two.

    A fantastic blending of actual history and fictional characters. Give us more Newt, after you retire from the White House, of course.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 23, 2011

    Another great book by Newt. Good luck on your presidential bid, you will have my vote.

    This is a perfect title for a great book. this book is set aound Christmas eve and the task that has befallen Washington and the rest of the patriots this night was egnormous. the men, supplies, and other logistics which also included the boats to transfer all the fore mentioned material, men, and what ever is needed for this crossing of the Delaware river to accomplish their mission. I am sure most of the main char-acters were correct and very little fiction was use as movies use to make a movie more interesting. Recommend to history and non-history buffs, a good read. Graceson J. Brotzman

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 30, 2011

    A must read!

    I have never been interested in the Revolutionary War, at least not until what has been going on with our country lately. I have learned what it took to help make our country what it is today.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 28, 2010

    Noble reminder of how hard America struggled for freedom!

    Wonderfully rendered depiction of the hardships endured by the rag-tag American army and the tremendous leadership of George Washington and his staff. Truly a great reminder of what fortitude was required to make America a country of its own and not a colony of another.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 18, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A Terrific & Timeless Book

    In writing "To Try Men's Souls," authors Newt Gingrich and William Fortschen have done a masterful job of piecing together General George Washington's Christmas day attack against the Hessians, accurately coordinating Washington's narratives with his army's movement, the historical time of day and the topographical challenges that were faced, as the Revolution pushed forward.

    All good stories must carry a strong rollercoaster of emotions. In the book's multi-narrative structure, we go from following Washington, as he and his men slog through miles of mud, their bare and wounded feet leaving trails of blood, to following Colonel Rall, a leader of the opposing Hessian forces, whose troops sit in the comfort of warm fires. Rall's hatred towards America is documented well, as the story speaks of the Hessians imprisoning American soldiers and humiliating them, with various public displays of horror.

    Thus, as our American forces close in on Trenton, where a hungover Hessian army awaits, sleepy from Christmas Eve celebrations, our bloodlust is satisfied! We feast on the fainted Hessians, vigorously gunning them down and crushing their skulls!

    It is a strong emotional point - after wading through freezing water, with no boots, no food, and spending the entire evening in sub-zero temperatures, our thoughts become that of pure animal - we want these Hessians to die. We feel it.

    Vengeance - an desire difficult to capture, written perfectly by the authors.

    However, let it be noted that our American forces quickly fed and took care of those Hessians that surrendered. We are "Americans" after all, is what Washington tells the Hessian leaders, who are surprised at his American mercy.

    The second notable reason to read this book is that of Washington's leadership. I offer a special point - author Newt Gingrich, arguably, is the most accomplished Congressman who has ever served.

    Consider this fact - no modern American President, with the exception of George W. Bush, has ever seen his Party make gains in both the House and Senate. By outlining the "Contract With America" and coordinating hundreds of Republican campaigns under one umbrella, Gingrich architected the most successful political victory of our times, capturing both the House and Senate in 1994.

    In turn, the book beautifully shares Washington's anecdotes on leadership. At one point, Washington, with a group of men watching, is told that the storms ahead are too harsh and that the march should be abandoned; without missing a beat, Washington quickly announces that the storm is a "blessing" from God that will further relax the Hessians, thus favoring his men's chances. My suspicions are that Gingrich is sharing with us his best lessons on leadership through the narrative of Washington - the psychology behind a true leader, as written by a tested leader.

    Lastly, I share the most beautiful line from the book:

    "This day had united them. No longer, at least for this moment, were they Virginians and Marylanders, men of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New York. They were comrades, united by the shared bond of blood, suffering, and, at last, this victory. They were the army of these United States of America."

    To truly appreciate the paragraph above, the men whose feet bled from Pennsylvania to Trenton, in pursuit of not just a Hessian army, but a dream of liberty. to truly appreciate it, one will have to read the entire book.

    Muhammad Ali Hasan

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2014

    Horrible

    Worst historical fiction I have ever read. Wish i had a refund!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 6, 2014

    Banal, boring, uninspired, and entirely fiction. I expected more

    Banal, boring, uninspired, and entirely fiction. I expected more. Or at least a little.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2013

    Loved it

    A v

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 10, 2013

    highly recommend

    an interesting, riveting look at a piece of American history.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2013

    Hidy

    Hvnt left whats up;)

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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