I am very aware that I decided to read and review an alternate history about America's first President that sounds dire on President's Day weekend. I would like readers to know that this book by Charles Rosenberg shows George Washington in a very positive light for the most part. I received it from the publisher via Net Galley in return for this review.
The fact that Rosenberg's novel is an alternate history means that the book was quite suspenseful for me because I had no idea of how far it would wander from our timeline. George Washington is in British hands. The fate of the American Revolution is in doubt. I wouldn't want to ruin that suspense for other readers by giving even a hint about how the novel ends.
Although Rosenberg's George Washington did not regard himself as irreplaceable, some characters in this novel appeared to believe that the revolution that resulted in the formation of the United States had no general other than Washington who could have led Americans to victory. Yet there is a mention in this book of General Morgan and his defeat of the British at Cowpens which did happen in our version of history. There is an illuminating page about General Daniel Morgan at a website called The History Junkie written by Russell Yost. Daniel Morgan sounds like an unusual figure. I would like to know more about him.
Rosenberg's portrayal of George Washington seemed to me very authentic with one exception. Last year I reviewed a non-fiction book about the American Revolution called Scars of Independence here. At the time, I noted that this work of history characterized Washington as someone who cared very much about his reputation. That's why I didn't think it likely that Washington would have publicly joked about adultery as he did in a scene in this novel. Then he tried to rescue himself by adding that he was completely faithful to his wife. At the very least, he had placed himself in an awkward situation by making such a joke. Probably Rosenberg wanted to humanize his Washington. It just didn't seem to me that Washington would have wanted to embarrass himself that way.
On the other hand, I thought there was some really entertaining dialogue at various points in this novel. Some of my favorite lines were spoken during Washington's trial.
Rosenberg's historical notes showed me that his alternate history is so credible because it was based on real possibilities. I always appreciate when authors of fiction involving history do the necessary research to make characters and events convincing. This is why I would consider The Trial and Execution of the Traitor George Washington a successful example of this speculative fiction sub-genre.