- Little, Brown Book Group
- Publication Date:
- 02 April 1994
- Historical Fiction
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A great romp of a book, dealing with one of the more enigmatic Founding Fathers, the man who did such great service to the nation by killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel. Vidal pulls out all the stops on the last page, and we are left having read a great book, gasping. Thankfully, Vidal offered more: several sequels, starting with "1876."
Vidal at his absolute best. A page-turning historical novel that is both well-researched and brilliantly re-imagined; rich in character and lacerating in point of view.
Gore Vidal writes historical fiction with a sharp eye toward historical accuracy, but with the freedom granted by the genre to present history with a viewpoint. Aaron Burr provides an ample tableau for the talents of Vidal at the top of his game. Burr lived through the Revolution, serving briefly on Washington's staff and later with Benedict Arnold at Quebec. He soon became seriously involved in New York state politics and eventually became Jefferson's vice-president. Burr seems to have always turned up in the middle of some controversy. He was nearly elected President instead of Jefferson due to a quirk in the electoral system of the day. He killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel while still VP and fled south and west to avoid prosecution in New Jersey. Jefferson soon charged him with treason for an alleged plot to separate the western states from the US. Burr was acquitted in a trial presided over by Chief Justice John Marshall. The reader meets lesser known characters such as James Wilkinson and Harman Blennerhassett among many others. The story is told through the device of Burr writing his memoirs over a period of several years commencing in 1833 with the aid of Charles Schuyler, the book's only fictional character. This device allows Vidal to move back and forth between the Republic's early days and the end of the Jackson presidency. In the latter period the reader meets Matty Van Buren, the famed New York editor William Leggett, the corrupt collector of the NY ports Sam Swartout, and revisits Andrew Jackson. Vidal presents the tale from his subject's viewpoint, one which is naturally quite favorable to Burr and somewhat at odds with the standard view in regard especially to the `Burr Conspiracy'. Thomas Jefferson particularly comes out poorly in this telling as does Washington. `Burr' was one of six works in what became Vidal's American Chronicles Series (Lincoln, 1876, Empire, Hollywood, and Washington, DC). I can also recommend Lincoln: A Novel and 1876 (Modern Library) to the reader (I've not yet read the others). Gore Vidal's `Burr' is a riveting ride through the early days of the Republic. Highest recommendation.
A wonderful novel. Well written, witty and sharp. Aaron Burr is a mythical person in American History. While this is a novel, you still derive insight in the man's character as well gaining an alternative view of American history.
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