From Publishers Weekly
Thomas Jefferson remains annoyingly distant from the reader in this disappointing novelization of his years in turbulent, pre-revolutionary France as ambassador of the fledgling U.S.A. Set mostly in Paris between 1785 and 1789, the novel centers on the observations of 28-year-old Virginian William Short, Jefferson's secretary and admiring protege. Intoxicated by Paris and awed by his patron, Short is somewhat out of his depth, dabbling in the art of biography while struggling with his own conflicting personal ambitions. Jefferson arrives in Paris as a figure of international renown to find the city smitten by compatriot Ben Franklin; when he departs to assume the office of Secretary of State under newly elected President Washington, Paris is awash in the bloodshed of revolution. Although Byrd includes interesting details of Jefferson's daily regimen and associations in Paris, the narrative shifts awkwardly from Short's voice to a third-person narrator who reveals the thoughts of Short and others, but never those of Jefferson. Some paradoxical aspects of Jefferson--notably his attitudes toward slavery, women and religion--are only cursorily explored.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Grounded in fact, Byrd's fictional treatment of Thomas Jefferson provides a vivid portrait of one of this nation's most intelligent and influential founding fathers. Narrated by William Short, Jefferson's personal secretary during the latter's tenure as minister to France, this biographical novel is populated by a dazzling array of historically significant characters, including Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and the marquis de Lafayette. Aside from examining and interpreting his mentor's complex political persona, Short also offers substantial insight into Jefferson's seemingly diffident disposition and his multifaceted and often controversial personal life. Absolutely splendid historical fiction that resonates with international, provincial, and individual passion and drama. Margaret Flanagan