A lengthy examination of American history at the turn into the twentieth century. The author chose to narrate the period through the eyes of two American legends, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) and John Hay (President Lincoln's secretary). Both men were seeking to secure their places in history, during this period, the twilight of their lives. The amount of ground covered is immense. The two main characters are sometimes tangentially connected, but the author manages to explore different viewpoints as to America's role using them as his windows into the period. The device works well, succeeding in pulling together difficult points. This is not a book to be rushed through, rather one that should be read a bit at a time, giving the reader the chance to determine his own opinions.