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Like his The Embarrassment of Riches and the bestselling Citizens, Simon Schama's latest book is both history and literature of immense stylishness and ambition. But Dead Certainties goes beyond these more conventional histories to address the deeper enigmas that confront a student of the past. In order to do so, Schama reconstructs — and at times reinvents — two ambiguous deaths: the first, that of General James Wolfe at the battle of Quebec in 1759; the second, in 1849, that of George Parkman, an eccentric Boston brahmin whose murder by an impecunious Harvard professor in 1849 was a grisly reproach to the moral sanctity of his society. Out of these stories — with all of their bizarre coincidences and contradictions — Schama creates a dazzling and supremely vital work of historical imagination.
"Intriguing and provocative... Dead Certainties inspires us throughout to examine our own assumptions about history and fiction"— Newsday
"A virtuoso performance... in Schama's hands the past loses its remoteness and takes on the noise and clutter of experience....He has become one of the few contemporary historians who are read as much for themselves as for their subjects."— Andrew Delbanco, New Republic