Publication Date: November 14, 2023
Barely able to walk and rendered mute by the cancer metastasizing in his throat, Ulysses S. Grant is scratching out words, hour after hour, day after day. Desperate to complete his memoirs before his death so his family might have some financial security and he some redemption, Grant journeys back in time.
He had once been the savior of the Union, the general to whom Lee surrendered at Appomattox, a twice-elected president who fought for the civil rights of Black Americans and against the rising Ku Klux Klan, a plain farmer-turned-business magnate who lost everything to a Wall Street swindler, a devoted husband to his wife Julia, and a loving father to four children. In this gorgeously rendered and moving novel, Grant rises from the page in all of his contradictions and foibles, his failures and triumphs.
Moving from blood-stained battlefields to Gilded Age New York, the novel explores how Grant’s own views on race and Reconstruction changed over time. “A graceful, moving narrative” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) from historical fiction master Jon Clinch, this evocatively crafted novel breathes fresh life into an American icon.
As a larger-than-life historical figure, Ulysses S. Grant is remembered not only for his presidential service but for his military prowess.
Author Jon Clinch offers a unique slice of historical fiction with The General and Julia. Facing his last days fighting throat cancer, Grant is determined to pen his memoir in an effort to provide his family with financial support.
The story’s timeline shifts from Grant’s last days, depicted by the heading “Forty Days and Forty Nights,” to key flashback events beginning in 1843 featuring a tender scene between an obviously smitten young couple.
Grant faces numerous challenges regarding the topic of slavery, especially since his own father-in-law relied heavily on the practice. Grant’s sense of equality is demonstrated multiple times throughout the book, as is his focus on hard work.
Seeing Grant through today’s lens reflects a man ahead of his time. Much debate has centered around the terms of his agreement with Robert E. Lee to end the Civil War, but Grant’s focus was always on unity.
A peek inside his personal life reveals a family man dedicated to his wife and four children. The author’s masterful storytelling technique brings the characters to life so readers can experience both the highs and the lows.
The General and Julia showcases the complexity of a man who carried the nation’s fate on his shoulders yet always remained devoted to his family.
Jon Clinch is the author of the acclaimed novels Finn, Kings of the Earth, The Thief of Auschwitz, Belzoni Dreams of Egypt, Marley, and The General and Julia. A native of upstate New York, Jon lives with his wife in the Green Mountains of Vermont.