#BookReview: Dear George, Dear Mary: A Novel of George Washington's First Love by Mary Calvi

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A novel about heiress Mary Philipse's relationship with George Washington, based on historical accounts, letters, and personal journals by nine-time New York Emmy award-winning journalist Mary Calvi.

“Love is said to be an involuntary passion, and it is, therefore, contended that it cannot be resisted.” —George Washington

Did unrequited love spark a flame that ignited a cause that became the American Revolution? Never before has this story about George Washington been told. Crafted from hundreds of letters, witness accounts, and journal entries, Dear George, Dear Mary explores George’s relationship with his first love, New York heiress Mary Philipse, the richest belle in Colonial America.

From elegant eighteenth-century society to bloody battlefields, the novel creates breathtaking scenes and riveting characters. Dramatic portraits of the two main characters unveil a Washington on the precipice of greatness, using the very words he spoke and wrote, and his ravishing love, whose outward beauty and refinement disguise a complex inner struggle.

Dear George, Dear Mary reveals why George Washington had such bitter resentment toward the Brits, established nearly two decades before the American Revolution, and it unveils details of a deception long hidden from the world that led Mary Philipse to be named a traitor, condemned to death and left with nothing. While that may sound like the end, ultimately both Mary and George achieve what they always wanted.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, I want to note that I’m in the minority when it comes to Mary Calvi’s Dear George, Dear Mary. Most readers really loved the time they spent with this book and as such, I hope anyone reading this takes my feedback with a grain of salt.

Calvi based this story on a little-known chapter of George Washington’s life and while I liked the material, I found the thesis difficult to swallow. I don’t mean to be rude, but suggesting the ignition switch of the American Revolution is rooted in George Washington’s relationship with Mary Philipse requires the reader to ignore the social landscape of the colonies and a myriad of policies that favored the interests of the Crown over the interests of its subjects. A war started by love might work for Homer, but I don’t feel it appropriate when exploring the American Revolution.

I found the political dialogue in this piece minimal which was hard as I am a reader who enjoys such things, but I also found it difficult to build relationships with Calvi’s cast or envision the world they inhabited. Calvi is good at describing the mechanics of her story, but her worldbuilding and character development didn’t come through the way I needed them to. Calvi’s style was too dry for my tastes and I felt it took far too long for the plot to come full circle.

At the end of the day, I found Calvi’s story creative, but feel I was a poor fit for it and would have a hard time recommending it alongside novels like America’s First Daughter or The Turncoat.

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: October 20, 2018

Where there is love, there is freedom.