Monday, March 14, 2016
Once upon a time, I regularly read biographies and histories. I spent weeks devouring every detail of the historic figures' lives and sharing with Randy anything I thought especially interesting or unknown to him (as a history major he seems to know everything). As much as I enjoyed learning more history and about the interesting people, it's been a few years since I found a work to capture my attention. America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie is written as a novel but uses so much research to tell the story of Thomas Jefferson's daughter Martha Patsy Jefferson Randolph.
I haven't spent so much time reading a single book for years. It took me almost two full weeks to read America's First Daughter yet I enjoyed every minute. Beginning with Patsy's childhood as the Jefferson family prepared to flee their home as the British army closed in, the novel takes the reader through the exciting history surrounding the Revolutionary War; Jefferson's time as ambassador in France; his continued time in politics and his retirement told through the eyes of his beloved and trusted daughter. I loved having the opportunity to visit these historic events through the domestic perspective of a woman and his family.
The novel focuses on Patsy and so it is her personality that shines through so clearly. She is a strong and yet conflicted character dealing with such troubling issues and nothing about her life is in any way boring. With the exception of Patsy's husband, most of the other characters are not as richly developed. Using letters and other research, Dray and Kamoie share family details that enrich the understanding of that period of time. There was often so much turmoil. I read the novel while my husband watched the election debates next to me. Listening to the circus that the election has become this year, I found it interesting to read more about the drama and dirty politics that occurred in the election of 1800. So little has changed. Except that we don't fight duels anymore. Perhaps that's just what this election is missing.
Part of me wished that it had been written as a biography so my brain would know just what was supported by research and what was assumptions filling in the gaps. However, there was value to it being a novel. It allowed the authors to delve into the ideas of Jefferson's personal life--though it could be seen as apologetic, it offered sympathy and understanding to a confusing and horrific issue.
The time I spent reading America's First Daughter was valuable and enjoyable. I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a book this much. I'm definitely inspired to find another biography soon.
America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie was published by William Morrow and released on March 1, 2016.
**I received a complimentary copy of America's First Daughter. All opinions are my own. No compensation was received.**
Posted by Utah Mom at 12:01 PM