Summary: More excellent history
Review: A fascinating study of a neglected era in American history, Leckie shows us with sharp and inviting prose how our nation came to be. Not only interesting in its own right, but a nice change from the decidedly Anglo-centric story taught to us in school (if they still even teach pre-revolutionary history in grade school). This is a fascinating but immenently readable account of the early stages in our nation's history, and it compellingly captures the players and events in the colonial world.
Summary: Terrible, Terrible, TERRIBLE!
Review: Do yourself a favor - dont bother with this one. It doesn't even qualify as history as far as I am concerned. Leckie comes off as a biased (he bashes female fighter pilots), racist (he flat out calls the Chinese a "backward race" and implies it's impossible for them to have been the inventor of gunpoweder!(see 51) and vindicative (he loves to bash on the British ever chance he gets) windbag. Nevermind that the first 30 some pages of the book put you to sleep going on and on about Columbus when what you bought the book for was the French and Indian Wars. What ever happened to objectivety? I am so disgusted with this book and this author I just can't get over it. I could spend well over a thousands words illustrating just how terrible this book is, but it would be much easier to just take the high road and discuss its merits: well, dang, there are none. That was easier than I thought. So much for the high road.
Summary: An example of poor scholarship
Review: Having been an avid student of colonial American history since my undergraduate days, I was really looking forward to Leckie's book. Now, having reached page 169, all I'm looking forward to is returning this book to the library. Leckie's scholarship in this work is atrocious. Although numerous thoughts, sayings and actions are ascribed to various characters and groups, not a single footnote can be found to document the truth of Leckie's writing. Having worked on a Ojibwe reservation during graduate school, I found his anti-Indian diatribes disturbing, and his understanding of Indian customs and culture profoundly poor. The description of the Iroquois nation as a bunch of savage, mindless cannibals is ridiculous, and to portray it as factual unconsciable. Likewise, his bias regarding the English and women, in concert with his tendency to drift off into irrelevant topics, makes the book virtually unreadable for anyone wishing to read a scholarly, unbiased account of the French and Indian Wars. As others have noted, a good editor would have perhaps made this book readable, or at the very least prevented it from being published in the first place. If you really must read this book, find it at the library before you spend your hard-earned money on it.
Summary: Disappointed with Leckie's Latest
Review: Having enjoyed his book on WW2, "Delivered from Evil", I was greatly disappointed with "A Few Acres of Snow". It lacked objectivity, and was unbalanced and apparently prejudiced. Some of it clearly stems from Irish Catholic animousity against the British and Protestants (esp. Calvinists).
The dedication to his book on the U.S. Civil War ("None Died in Vain") says a lot about the man. He dedicates it to his grandfather who left the Confederates to join the Unionists because of British support for the South. I regret to say his grandfather's attitude toward the British may have affected his own objectivity.
I'm sorely disappointed, Robert! You could have criticised the legitimate errors of Elizabeth, Cromwell, William III, and the Georges, etc. (which are many), if only you had shown objectivity and substantiated your claims, rather than recounting rumours as fact that any balanced historian knows are only hearsay (and possibly propaganda) or down-right lies, and ignoring the sins of your favourites (e.g. James II).
He ignores the religious persecution of the Scots-Irish Presbyterians and the abuses of the English merchants and landlords in Ireland (e.g. exhorbitant rents and unfair tariffs), which led to their emmigration to America and eventual rejection of George III, when the English elite carried out the same abuses in America. (Hence the oft-repeated claim by the Tories that the War of Independence was really an Irish war against the British Parliament). He gives the reasons for everyone else's emmigration, but not this group. This is a major ommission, given their significant population during the 18th Century and influence during the struggle for independence and thereafter; as well as the fact that many Americans are desecended from these people. (I can't comment on his book, "George Washington's War", however.)
Nevertheless, despite these failings, I couldn't help enjoying the book and learning a lot about the Colonial Wars (but how much can I trust?). I find Leckie a very engaging author and although he could state his opinions in a more winsome fashion, I admire his frankness and willingness not to ignore certain unfashionable issues (e.g. the cruelty of the Iroquois). Some may find his biographical detours irritating, but that is a question of taste. I think that it greatly enhances a mere history of military engagements and the politics surrounding them, if you are patient.
Those who criticise his lack of footnotes must realise that this is a popular work and not an academic one.
Those who criticise his discussion regarding the "First Nations" (a.k.a. American Indians) have to admit that he was balanced in criticising the Colonists' treatment of them, but honest in not beating about the bush regarding their wicked cruelty, which is too well documented to deny (however some may pretend that claims of cannibalism and torture were just made up). We can't ignore their abuses just because they were abused.
Review: I am an unabashed fan of Robert Leckie's works but this effort is poor at best. There really is nothing new here. Most of this work is of exceedingly poor quality, no footnotes, no bibliography, and no substantiation of the story being told. Altogether, it is an amazing disappointment.
Summary: Trash-talking history
Review: If i could i would give negative stars to this book. It is the worst book that i have read in the last decade (that's about one thousand books).
The strength of this book is that Leckie occasionally tells some interesting stories. However, as Leckie makes numerous glaring factual errors, i wondered whether his interesting stories are accurate or not. (Where were the editors at Wiley?) He often tells us what people are feeling, though i doubt if he could know, especially for those who die during the action which he is describing. Leckie's treatment of the subject is so uneven and so disjointed, i often wondered whether this was a series of articles quickly pulled together to meet some deadline. One gets no sense of cause and effect from this book and no sense of a historical perspective. He makes conclusions without providing a logical argument or evidence. He ranges far from the topic at hand, often into territories about which he knows little, and then makes bold statements. I can only echo the problems noted by other reviewers: repetition, bias against women, meaningless and unsupported diatribes, etc.
Here's an example: I found it particularly odd that "Chapter 17: Heroines of Both Frontiers" (pages 195-201) praises the fighting qualities of women and how they were often braver than men is followed by a diatribe on page 214 trashing the idea of women in combat and then in a footnote on the bottom of the page says "In World War II the chief German ace Erich Hatmann, shot down no less than 352 enemy planes. Our chief ace, Richard Bong, had 40 kills. What would happen to an American female fighter pilot challenging either one of these superior gentlemen of the skies? Obviously, she would lose her life." It is if Leckie totally forgot what he wrote in Chapter 17. There is also a huge logical error in his jump to an unsubstantiated conclusion. One conclude that perhaps women should fly against Hartmann and Bong as the men they faced did such a bad job. By the way, Hartmann was shot down several times, German figures for Soviet casaulities are very suspect, and there are numerous examples of women showing more skill and courage than men in war, including in World War II.
What probably irked me the most about this book, besides doing injustice to an era i love to study, is that i felt that Leckie's writing was very cynical and "trash talking". He seemed less interested in doing good history than trashing those he did not like, often through misinformation, and building up those he did like, e.g. George Washington. He repeatedly engages in name calling.
As i said above, this is the worst book i have read in the last decade. I checked the list of what i have read. Please don't buy this book, it may encourage them to publish more like it.
Summary: A Great Story Gone Bad
Review: Robert Leckie has managed to take a great and fascinating time in American history and turn it into a thoroughly pedestrian affair. Leckie conveys little of the excitement and interest of the times and is rather short on facts, as well. In fact, too often he seems more interested in venting his curmudgeonly opinions about such irrelevant matters as women in today's armed forces. As if the poor quality of the writing weren't detriment enough, the proof reading job on the volume is abysmal, the maps are inadequate, and there are few illustrations (although many are available) to convey the color of the times. A very disappointing volume.
Summary: Profoundly Dissapointing
Review: The only way to approach this book is to start with the notion that you are interviewing your nearly senile grandfather about his wartime experiences. His story will be good and it will hold your interest, but a lot of his story will be filled with personal anecdotes, wide digressions, and embellishments that test the bounds of credibility. So is it with Leckie in this book.
Leckie is a good example of a successfule narrative historian that has let his success cloud his ability to write good books. At times this book flows well from page to page, but it a rare thing that is flows well from chapter to chapter. If there is any underlying organisation it is not evident. I think that Leckie was conceiving a book where he could narrate the events in Europe as a counterpoint to activities in North America. I am sure that this was the case because he offers a lot of detail about the riegning monarchs of the times and their internal stuggles in the UK and Europe.
But there is little connected narrative of any of these events and what happens in North America -- the chapters seem to float independent of each other --- events are jumbled and there is no undlying chronology that Leckie is aiming at.
Do not get me wrong. I am not expecting a scholarly read here. I am expecting an exciting read that at least is historically accurate and reflects the tenor of the times. But I wonder if I got that from this book. Large chunks of the book also seem dedicated to his own personal opinions about things as diverse as the US Marines in Iraq and the role of women in the the military nowadays (in a book on the French-Indian Wars??!). His footnote on women pilots is frankly bizaare and lacks any logic whatsoever or connection with the narrative (is he going senile?). These should be banished from the text. Shame on the editor.
Another annoyance is that his storytelling is a little too interpretive for my liking. I understand, and like, that people try to read into the feelings of people at a certain time about a certain situation. Thus we have people who can rather authoritatively state the mindset of Churchill or Washington, about a certain event. Or even, as in the case of this book, that Frontenac regarded the snow as beastly (probably a safe bet). But this conjuring goes too far in his description of the Dutch Settlers, constructing a whole dialogue in broken English with Dutch accents..... ditto at times for the French, he has them speaking in English with French accents!!). At times like these the book seems written for 13 yrs olds.
Also it is clear that Leckie knows no French (which is OK, I only have a smattering myself), he merely again lifted words out of other authors texts and then repeats them in his text. Some of the usage is plain wrong! Since the fall of Quebec is central in this history of Canada, I am sure that Mr. Leckie will not sell too many texts north of the border where basic French ability is assumed for any historian (or person).
In addition I checked Chris Hibbert's wonderful 1960 book "Wolfe At Quebec" and found that Leckie has literally lifted pages from that book and placed them in his book. Sure it is in quotes, but it shows that Leckie is really trading on his own former success to pump out garbage history and make few more bucks, a la Stephen Ambrose (may he rest in peace).
I would have to disagree with some of the comments about Leckie being either for or against the British. I think he is pretty even handed. Frontenac shines through and is a true Canadian hero. British (read American) military commanders are also taken to task and the French are quite rightly regarded as the best infantrymen and irregular fighter in North America at the time the story is told. The reason they lost having to do with the fact that French Canada was 1/6 the size of the British Colonies, and that they were run on a feudal economic model.
If you are thinking of reading this genre, do not waste time with this book. Read, "The Crucible of War" or, a lovely historical narrative from the early 60s by Thomas B Costains called, "The White and the Gold."
Summary: Interesting and lively narrative; a couple of reservations.
Review: This book provides as background to the French and Indian Wars a history of the (re)discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus and its subsequent colonization by Spain, France, and England. By emphasizing the different ways in which the colonizing powers treated their possessions, and providing histories of many of the major personalities involved in the growth of the colonies, Leckie does provide insight, as the jacket says, into "why we speak English today instead of French-and reminds us how easily things might have gone the other way."
However, there are some irritating aspects. First, on at least two occasions material is repeated, sometimes word-for-word, in different chapters (compare the final three paragraphs on page 100 with the last two paragraphs on page 158 and the first paragraph on page 159, and also page 126 and pages 165 to 166). This appears to be at least rather sloppy editing, and gives the reader some problems in keeping the succession of events straight.
Second, Leckie seems to be somewhat prejudiced against women. He names Queen Elizabeth I "the Pirate Queen," as if England alone engaged in somewhat less than legal behavior on the seas, and he devotes one of the few footnotes in the book to the following tirade:
"Permit the author a single digression on this subject [women in combat]: In World War II the chief German ace, Erich Hartmann, shot down no less than 352 enemy planes. Our chief ace, Richard Bong, had 40 kills. What would happen to an American female fighter pilot challenging either one of these superior gentlemen of the skies? Obviously, she would lose her life, and the U.S. Air Force would lose not only the time and money wasted in training her as well, but also an aircraft valued at $36 million." I translate this argument as: "An average female fighter pilot challenging the best aces of WWII would 'obviously' lose. Therefore, it is ridiculous to think of using women as combat pilots." One could equally well argue that an average male fighter pilot challenging one of these aces would also probably lose-but this does not cause Leckie to suggest that men should not be allowed into combat.
These two characteristics of the book kept me wondering what other prejudices and padding I might have missed.
Summary: A Few Acres of Snow in need of an editor
Review: This book tells the story of the French and Indian Wars, the conflicts between New England and New France that raged from the late 1600's until 1760. The last war has been much written about and even portrayed by Hollywood, but the earlier wars tend to remain hidden in the shadows. The author tells the story of all of them, and much else besides. Indeed he goes off on tangents of all sorts, twice referring to Oliver Cromwell as a "hymn-singing swine". There is a strange diatribe against American liberals and the introduction of women in combat, not terribly germane to 18th century history. One three-paragraph-long polemic against the Iroquois on page 100 occurs again, word for word on page 158. This is a book in desperate need of an editor.
It's too bad, really, because when Leckie stays on topic he can write quite a yarn. His account of the final confrontation at Quebec in 1759 is as good as any I've read, but one has to plow through so much extraneous stuff to get there. My interest in this book was mainly to illuminate the earlier events. Had some merciless editor chopped about a hundred pages from the manuscript, the result might be a book I could recommend without reservation.
I assume the fans of Mr. Leckie's numerous previous books will enjoy this one. Finishing this tome has not inclined me to seek out his other works.