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In 'The General and Julia,' Vermont author Jon Clinch explores the life of Ulysses S. Grant

Author Jon Clinch's new book, "The General and Julia," follows the life of President Ulysses S. Grant.
Author Jon Clinch's new book, "The General and Julia," follows the life of President Ulysses S. Grant.

Ulysses S. Grant, the United States' 18th president, is often revered as the savior of the Union. Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox, when Grant was the commanding general of the Union army during the Civil War. He was twice elected president and was the father of four children. What fueled him to reach these heights? And what drove his attitudes around race and Reconstruction following the Civil War?

Those are some of the questions that Vermont author Jon Clinch grapples with in his latest novel, The General and Julia, published in November 2023. Clinch has written several books, including Kings of the Earth, which was named the Best Book of the Year by the Washington Post in 2010.

"It's always interesting to consider the things that we know about important people. When I read Ron Chernow's Grant, I did not walk away with learning about his heroism in the Civil War, or his judgment as a president," Clinch said. Instead, Clinch said, he was most compelled by Chernow's account of Grant's last few days of life when he was dying of cancer. "He had lost all his money to a Ponzi scheme, and to keep his family afloat after he was gone, he threw himself into writing his memoirs.”

Clinch relied on Chernow's biography of Grant, as well as Mark Twain's writings about Grant when researching his book. He also took pleasure in expanding on that recorded history with dialogue. “I should know enough but not to track down too much detail," he said.
“When I go out there to learn things if I've dug up some interesting fact to bring it back and show it to the reader,” Clinch said. “It’s better for me to know enough but not to track down too much detail.”

Clinch will be at the Northshire Bookstore on January 23rd at the Northshire Bookstore in Saratoga Springs. The event starts at 6 PM.

Broadcast at noon on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024.

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Mikaela Lefrak is the host and senior producer of Vermont Edition. Her stories have aired nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Marketplace, The World and Here & Now. A seasoned local reporter, Mikaela has won two regional Edward R. Murrow awards and a Public Media Journalists Association award for her work.