America’s First Daughter

America’s First Daughter IMG_0629.JPG

Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

This is a history book that reads like a novel, or a novel that reads like a history book; I can’t decide which! The authors took historical facts (mainly based on the thousands of letters written by Thomas Jefferson over the course of his life) and filled in the unknowns about the president and his daughter with probable and possible events. The book covers a span of 50+ years in the life of Patsy Jefferson, from her escape from Monticello with her father, mother, and sister during the Revolutionary War, to the mid-1800s, after the death of her father. While quite a tome (well over 500 pages), I found the story fascinating because it demonstrates how much influence Patsy had on her father’s life (and presidency) as well as bringing to life the Revolutionary period. So much of that era becomes rosy and glorified, when it really had to have been a terrible time, even though so much good came out of it. I enjoyed how the authors gave voices to the great fathers of America and showed their humanness–too often we just see them as legends and larger than life. The parallels between the American Revolution and the closely-following French Revolution also gave me new insights into the history of that era and the relationship between the new Americans and their French allies.

My Rating: B+

  • fascinating history, but dry at times (and long!)
  • excellent meshing of historical fact and imagination
  • a good compromise as far as learning history and providing enjoyment

Clean Factor: A

  • no objectionable language or scenes

Application: B-

  • I think the target audience for this book is fairly narrow.
  • It would spur a fun discussion in book club if I could talk them into a big one! 😉


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