Reviews of The British Are Coming

To say that Atkinson can tell a story is like saying Sinatra can sing…. Historians of the American Revolution take note. Atkinson is coming. He brings with him a Tolstoyan view of war; that is, he presumes war can be understood only by recovering the experience of ordinary men and women caught in the crucible of orchestrated violence beyond their control or comprehension…. It is as if Ken Burns somehow gained access to a time machine, traveled back to the Revolutionary era, then captured historical scenes on film as they were happening…. The story he tells is designed to rescue the American Revolution from the sentimental stereotypes and bring it to life as an ugly, savage, often barbaric war…. A powerful new voice has been added to the dialogue about our origins as a people and a nation. It is difficult to imagine any reader putting this beguiling book down without a smile and a tear.”

—Joseph J. Ellis, The New York Times Book Review

“Mr. Atkinson’s book…is chock full of momentous events and larger-than-life characters. Perfect material for a storyteller as masterly as Mr. Atkinson…. Mr. Atkinson commands great powers of description…. On center stage are the battlefields, [which] are documented in stellar prose and 24 exquisite maps.… The narrative is the stuff of novels, [but] Mr. Atkinson’s facts are drawn from a wealth of manuscript and printed sources. He quotes aptly and with acumen…. Mr. Atkinson weaves it all together seamlessly, bringing us with him. Pithy character sketches—reminiscent of 18th-century historians David Hume and Edward Gibbon, both of whom Mr. Atkinson cites—bring the dead to life.

The Wall Street Journal

“[Atkinson has a] felicity for turning history into literature…. One lesson of The British Are Coming is the history-shaping power of individuals exercising their agency together: the volition of those who shouldered muskets in opposition to an empire…. The more that Americans are reminded by Atkinson and other supreme practitioners of the historians’ craft that their nation was not made by flimsy people, the less likely it is to be flimsy.

—George F. Will, The Washington Post

“Atkinson…wastes no time reminding us of his considerable narrative talents…. His knowledge of military affairs shines in his reading of the sources…. For sheer dramatic intensity, swinging from the American catastrophes at Quebec and Fort Washington to the resounding and surprising successes at Trenton and Princeton, all told in a way equally deeply informed about British planning and responses, there are few better places to turn.”

The Washington Post

“Atkinson takes his time, but there’s delight in all that detail…. Atkinson is a superb researcher, but more importantly a sublime writer. On occasion I reread sentences simply to feast on their elegance…. This is volume one of a planned trilogy. Atkinson will be a superb guide through the terrible years of killing ahead.”

The Times (London)

“[Atkinson’s] account promises to be as detailed a military history of the war as we will see in our lifetimes upon its completion. . . . Atkinson makes good use of information from letters and journals to give his reader a sense of what it would have been like to walk in the shoes of both the war’s illustrious and lesser known participants. . . . Atkinson’s accounts of battles are among the most lucid I’ve read. . . . Readers who enjoy richly detailed military history will be greatly anticipating his second volume.”

Journal of the American Revolution

“Rick Atkinson is emerging as America’s most talented military historian…. The British Are Coming is history written in a grand style and manner. It leaves one anxiously awaiting the next two volumes.”

New York Journal of Books

“Pulitzer Prize-winner Atkinson (The Liberation Trilogy) replicates his previous books’ success in this captivatingly granular look at the American Revolution from the increasing tension in the colonies in 1773 to the battles of Trenton and Princeton in 1777. Extensive research…allows Atkinson to recreate the past like few other popular historians. The result is a definitive survey of the first stage of the war…. By providing vivid portraits of even minor characters, Atkinson enables readers to feel the loss of individual lives on both sides of the conflict, and by providing memorable details…he brings new life even to chapters of oft-told American history…. A superlative treatment of the period.”

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“This balanced, elegantly written, and massively researched volume is the first in a projected trilogy about the Revolutionary War…. Combining apt quotation (largely from correspondence) with flowing and precise original language, Atkinson describes military encounters that, though often unbearably grim, are evoked in vivid and image-laden terms…. His profiles of American and English (and allied Hessian) statesmen and soldiers are fair and sharply etched…. Aided by fine and numerous maps, this is superb military and diplomatic history and represents storytelling on a grand scale.

Booklist (starred review)

“Atkinson (The Guns at Last Light, etc.) is a longtime master of the set piece: soldiers move into place, usually not quite understanding why, and are put into motion against each other to bloody result…. There’s plenty of motion and carnage to keep the reader’s attention. Yet Atkinson also has a good command of the big-picture issues that sparked the revolt and fed its fire…. Despite a succession of early disasters and defeats, Atkinson clearly demonstrates, through revealing portraits of the commanders on both sides, how the colonials “outgeneraled” the British…. A sturdy, swift-moving contribution to the popular literature of the American Revolution.”

Kirkus (starred review)

This book is, in a word, fantastic. It offers all the qualities that we have come to expect from the author: deep and wide research, vivid detail, a blend of voices from common soldiers to commanders, blazing characterizations of the leading personalities within the conflict and a narrative that flows like a good novel…. The British Are Coming is a superb ode to the grit and everyday heroism that eventually won the war.

BookPage (starred review)