America’s First Daughter
by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
Paperback: 624 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (March 1, 2016)
Review: 9.5/10 (clearly I loved it!)
Reading Sara Review: This is a hard review to write because I loved this book. From the beginning, this book enthralled me by the brilliant storytelling, the incredible weaving of time and place through letters, and certainly most of all with Patsy Jefferson.
America’s First Daughter is the story of Martha “Patsy” Jefferson, eldest daughter of Thomas Jefferson. This book is based largely on facts, real events that happened throughout the course of America’s history (even Patsy burning letters and censoring what the world was to know of her great father is true). What I love about books like this is that we know about Thomas Jefferson – but the uncovering of a strong woman behind him, a great daughter to support him after he vowed to his dying wife that he would not marry again, that is a story that is untold, until now.
If you are a fan of academic history, this is probably not the book for you. The authors take liberties and guesses at some of the friendships, romances, and scandals and create a story that is fascinating to follow. Maybe all of these things did not happen, in fact, they probably did not. But, some of the important things did happen, and the other things help the story along the way (and making reading it fun!).
Patsy is certainly the heroine in this book – stepping up to be “First Daughter” when there is a need for a “First Lady” by the President Jefferson’s side, making sacrifices for her family her entire life, and being a strong woman in a man’s world. A major theme in the book is sacrifice. Jefferson certainly sacrificed much to his life as a public servant. And Patsy sacrificed much in service to her father, and later to her family. Those that surrounded them in their life, their circle, felt that sacrifice and that pressure in their own ways. Whether it was a child marrying for security, or helping a sibling because of the strain it would place on the family – there was intense pressure to maintain that sacrifice throughout their lives.
Along with an interesting storyline of Patsy’s life, the authors wove the issues of the day – women’s right, slavery and the politics of the media (yes, even then! Though news traveled slower!), which gave this novel more depth. Seeing Thomas Jefferson through his daughter’s eyes makes him a real person, much more than a founding father that we learn about in school. Even in his brilliant mind, he had internal struggles. This story takes place in a fascinating time, but the Jefferson family truly lived through some amazing things. Starting with the revolutionary war and being driven from Monticello because “the British are coming” to residing in France at the onset of the Fresh Revolution to returning home and being a part of President Washington’s cabinet – what an incredible part of history!
I worry about recommending books that I truly love to other people. What if they don’t love it as much as I did? What if they hate it and no longer take my recommendations? I think that this is one of the best books that will come out in 2016, certainly one of the best historical fiction books. If you read it and hate it, please don’t tell me. But I hope we can still be friends and give each other more recommendations!
I could say so much more about this novel, but won’t for fear of spoiling some of the fun!