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Summary

After two best-selling series examining the Civil War and WWII, Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen have turned their sharp eye for detail on the Revolutionary War. Their story follows three men with three very different roles to play in history: General George Washington, Thomas Paine, and Jonathan Van Dorn, a private in Washington's army. 

The action focuses on one of the most iconic events in American history: Washington crossing the Delaware. Unlike the bold, courageous General in Emanuel Leutze's painting, Washington is full of doubt on the night of December 25, 1776. After five months of defeat, morale is dangerously low. Each morning muster shows that hundreds have deserted in the night.

While Washington prepares his weary troops for the attack on Trenton, Thomas Paine is in Philadelphia, overseeing the printing of his newest pamphlet, The Crisis.

And Jonathan Van Dorn is about to bring the war to his own doorstep. In the heat of battle, Jonathan must decide between staying loyal to the cause and sparing his brother, who has joined up with the British. 

Through the thoughts and private fears of these three men, Gingrich and Forstchen illuminate the darkest days of the Revolution. With detailed research and an incredible depth of military insight, To Try Men's Souls is a novel that provides a rare and personal perspective of the men who fought for and founded the United States of America.

©2009 Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen (P)2009 Macmillan Audio

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  • Bull
  • 08-12-12

Just a dramatized history lesson

Gingrich and Forstchen had a great idea when they came up with what they called "Active History": examining how history would have changed by altering a single pivotal event. What would have happened if Robert E. Lee had won at Gettysburg? What would have happened if the Japanese had pressed their immediate advantage at Pearl Harbor and wiped out the Naval Base's ship repair facilities? It's a wonderful concept, and made for many hours of fascinating reading.

This book is just a history story. Nothing is changed. They have just taken the bare facts of Washington's assault on Trenton and puts words in the mouths of the characters, some historical and some fictional. They tell us how cold it was, how ill-equipped the troops were, and generally they try to add verisimilitude. They let us listen in as Thomas Paine, sitting by a camp fire, hears some soldier talk about how trying the times were, trying his very soul ("Catchy phrase - maybe I can use it!")

The narration was way over the top. I kept getting flashbacks of Jon Lovitz on Saturday Night Live in his role as "Master Thespian", flinging out his arm and declaring "Acting!" Dufris narrates as if he were auditioning for some stage production, playing each character and scene as larger than life.

A mighty big disappointment to me. I won't be reading the rest in this series. Maybe G&F will come up with some more "active history" and win me back.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Bobalooo
  • 05-10-11

It could have been so much more...

Of the 200 books I have listened to, this is the first that I have rated.

I was really looking forward to this, but was very disappointed. It seemed to me as if the authors were trying very hard to prove how difficult a time it was and what horror the men were going through... so hard that they belabored the point and I kept finding myself saying "I get the point...let's get on with it..."

Frankly, the story itself is enough to prove their point. The belaboring almost trivializes it and makes me as a reader/listener feel as if I must need this reinforcement to get the picture.

Character development I felt was sophomoric at best. They didn't feel real, but rather were idealized to the point of rediculousness.

Callista was a horrible reader in this instance. Everytime I heard her it made me think that Newt must have written her part as a reader into the contract. And it just didn't work.

The best part of the book was the straight forward reading of Thomas Paine's "The Crisis" at the end of the book. Well read, meaningful, and interesting.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Sylvia
  • 26-05-11

I loved this book!

My dad used to say to us when my 3 brothers and I were growing up, 'What do they teach you in school? I can't believe you don't know your US history'! Well, he was right! I learned so much from this book and loved it! The story was so engaging, the narration spot on and I literally cried at the end. So very good! You will do yourself and your noggin a favor by listening, enjoying and enriching yourself!

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Wolfpacker
  • 05-03-10

Slow Pace

These authors take too many pages to convey the misery and hopelessness of Washington's soldiers. A better author could paint this picture equally well but more economically. It is a great story that needs to be told; however, I highly recommend that you choose Washington's Crossing instead. (I have only read that in print.) That book covers the same period and the aftermath and is extremely well-written.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Sealion2
  • 11-01-10

Bloody Feet and All

This novel should be required reading for all members of the US Congress. I really think in all of our current arguing and striving we forget the trials and tribulations of the founding fathers and just plain, ordinary, stubborn citizens.

These citizens were willing to tell the greatest nation of the day "It ain't right!" Then, they were willing to stake their lives, honor and fortunes on independence and to form a new nation.

No other nation, has given so much to the world with so little appreciation. We need to revisit our history and learn why we have the freedoms other nation can even dream of.

And yes, the history books do say, that one could track George Washington's soldiers by the bloody footprints in the snow. Novels such as To Try Men's Souls help us not to forget the sacrifices of our forebearers.

Last thought, personally, I am beginning not to care that so many in the world hate America or even why. But, they should keep in mind what happens if we in America get angry. Perhaps they, the enemies of the US, should read this novel and fear.

5 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Carrie Taylor
  • 21-12-09

Great book!

Historically accurate with great dialogue, this was a very moving book about the men who sacrificed for America's independence. It also did a brilliant job of capturing the collective mood of the country and illustrates how fairweather a populace can be based on which side is perceived to be currently winning.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Kristen
  • 30-10-09

Excellent book, coudn't stop listening

It's a great mix of history and fiction. Living our comfy 21st century lives, we have no idea what it was truly like to fight in the Revolution. It portrays George Washington, Thomas Paine and other historical figures with a personal touch.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Ddh
  • 18-06-10

Captivating telling of history.

This is a a very captivating and moving story and left me wanting more. I have never studied the American battle for independence before, but this book really made me want to.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Safidog
  • 20-01-10

To Try Mens Souls

What a great book! Full of realistic and true events of the American Revelution. I highly recommend it to one and all.

4 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Lisa
  • 28-03-12

Better than I was anticipating

What did you like best about To Try Men's Souls? What did you like least?

If I am to be totally honest, this is a book that I have put off reading, no matter how badly I wanted to read it because of the politics of one of the authors. And it is not my intention to open a political debate in this forum — but this book is a great representation of not so much judging a book by its cover, but rather judging a book by its author. So going in I was prepared to dislike this book from the beginning. However, I came away greatly surprised. Choosing the appropriate story, of course, is half the battle in any book. And in this one, the authors met with success. There are few books that are in story format that tell about the American Revolution — and yet it is a time that simply invites stories because of how amazing the entire war really was! But after choosing the appropriate story, it comes down to how gifted is the author in the story telling. And, without identifying where all the gifts may lie — this book is well worth the read.

3 people found this helpful