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Customer Review

334 of 343 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Our 2nd President . . . Without the Singing and Dancing, June 11, 2001
This review is from: John Adams (Hardcover)
My curiousity in John Adams first piqued by repeatedly in my youth watching the musical "1776" (of which Adams is the main character), I looked forward anxiously to McCullough's latest take on America's 2nd President. It didn't hurt that McCullough's bio "Truman" is still perhaps my favorite political biography of them all. With all these high expectations, I was waiting for my hopes to be dashed. But, nothing could be further from the truth.
"Adams" is a terrific piece of work. Relying on a treasure trove of letters and correspondence written by Adams and his tremendous wife Abigail (both of whom were compulsive/obsessive writers), McCullough replays the history of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Washington Presidency and Adams's tumultuous four years as President with vibrant storytelling and just the right amount of detail without getting weighed down.
In MuCullough's view, Adams was a brilliant, determined, forthright, nonpartisan, stubborn politician who was unabashedly American and ambitious for higher office only to the point that public service (according to Adams) was the greatest calling of all.
Anybody looking for a line by line history of America's birth, from 1776 to 1800, will probably be disappointed. McCullough skips over the details of the American Revolution and the drafting of the Constitution. He instead tracks the diplomatic journeys of Adams, who travels to England, France and Holland with Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson (both occasionally) as they try to negotiate various peace and commercial treaties.
The best surprise of the book? Abigail Adams, an amazing woman living entirely ahead of her time. Without her, McCullough obviously believes, John Adams would never have achieved his status in American history.
The only disappointments in the book? A skewed and very negative portrayal of Alexander Hamilton, and a less-than-complete discussion of why two of Adams's sons, Thomas and Charles, came to financial and physical ruin, while another, John Quincy, became our 6th President.
Though not quite as entrancing and new as "Truman," "John Adams" has its own charm. It's an amazing journey with America's inception, and a reminder of the greatness of all of our Founding Fathers, perhaps the most misunderstood of all being the delightfully stubborn and pigheaded Mr. Adams.
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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 13, 2008 5:56:39 AM PST
J. Beer says:
I loved the book, but was also disappointed that Alexander Hamilton was not explained better than as a power-hungry cock sparrow. Having read Ron Chernow's book prior, where Adams was portrayed more from Hamilton's point of view, I feel I need to go back, reread, read some other books about both of them, and try to get a picture of their relationship that makes sense to me.

Posted on May 17, 2009 4:18:12 PM PDT
I'm glad that I am not the only person whose fascination with John Adams began with "1776."

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 12, 2009 3:33:16 AM PDT
If you liked the Truman bio (I didn't), you should try Caro's LBJ books. I do not think McCullough is as deep and find that he consistently fails to ask the right (or even tough) questions. That being said, your review has convinced me I should read this book. THanks.

Posted on Feb 16, 2011 2:35:07 AM PST
Very well done review. This book is well worth reading. About Hamilton, I think McCullough's opinion of him is actually pretty good. I think in the book Hamilton comes off rather negative as you said. In the HBO Adams series, Hamilton is not explored enough to form an opinion. I like his portrayal of Thomas Jefferson - brilliant but not particularly honest. I published an article in the Journal of Management Inquiry on Jefferson and Hamilton and they added a lot to the early management of the American Republic and (with Adams and Madison) should be equally remembered in the creation and nuturing of the United States.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 19, 2012 7:05:55 AM PDT
S. Burton says:
Thanks for the review. It was very fair-minded. It was helpful that you mentioned strengths and weaknesses. It makes this reader want to know more.

Posted on Mar 31, 2014 9:48:56 AM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Jul 11, 2015 11:48:40 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 6, 2015 10:44:47 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Aug 19, 2015 11:22:04 PM PDT]

Posted on Apr 18, 2016 10:13:48 PM PDT
Kate says:
I too began my interest in John Adams via the musical "1776". Saw it the first time when William Daniels starred in the stage play in Indianapolis as a kid.
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