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First Family: Abigail and John Adams Paperback – September 6, 2011
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Top Customer Reviews
If you have read any of the other biographies, then you know the history, but Ellis is able to reflect and delve into the persona of both Abigail and John Adams by going into the details of their periphery correspondence with friends and relatives - especially on the Abigail side of the equation. We get a slightly different Abigail that is wounded deeply by John's constant movement into the political limelight that neglects his family and wife as he puts his political ambitions before his familial obligations. Ellis takes a step further than others by suggesting that John Adams had a thyroid problem that in the absence of Abigail, who was his sense of balance, may have lead to his quick and aggressive temper. Additionally, Ellis puts the question of "favoritism (of John Quincy) squarely on John and Abigail as they put pressure upon John Quincy at a very early age. The other males are not treated in the same pressurized manner and in some cases (Thomas) nearly ignored for long stretches.Read more ›
Ellis is masterful in his deft handling of the irascible and insecure John by allowing us to view him through the eyes of time and Abigail. Likewise we come to know Abigail through her love of John, her children, and by her "saucy" demeanor displayed by her acute sense of politics and her willingness to speak her mind. Although distance kept them apart for extended periods during their marriage, history as well as the reader benefits because of their extant letters, providing us with what Ellis refers to as "the paradox of proximity." In other words, when John and Abigail are together they don't correspond, so we only know what they're thinking or feeling through their letters.
By the end of this book, I felt like I knew John and Abigail better than I had ever known them before. I was surprised to find myself more sympathetic to John, perhaps in part due to my fondness for the more serene Jefferson. But I came to realize that Adams, at times paranoid in his mistrust of nearly everyone, had occasion to be justified in his feelings. The behind-the-scenes machinations of practically everyone in his cabinet would be grounds for treason today. And the libelous nature of the media then would never make it to press now.Read more ›
After first encountering the letters some years ago, Ellis resolved one day to "read all their letters and tell the full story of their conversation within the context of America's creation as a people and a nation." He has now done so brilliantly, bringing these two intelligent people to life before us. He does not do this in isolation. He covers the historical context of the times with gratifying clarity. His writing is superb, carrying the reader along effortlessly to the point of making it difficult to put the book down.
I cannot recommend "First Family" too highly to anyone who has a scintilla of interest in the people who launched the United States.
Ellis while not uncovering any new facts, by relying on primary sources has provided a concise and entertaining narrative that provides a good overview of the origins of America's first political dynasty.
The John Adams that Ellis depicts is very much an approachable and human figure, very much unlike the marble like portrayals of Ron Chernow's books on Washington and Hamilton which seek to justify everything that these two men did in only the most positive of terms. The fact that Adams did let his passions run away with him and did screw up makes him easier to understand and respect in a way that would be impossible in his own time. Despite a desire for glory and historical fame, Adams was correct on many things, having a greater understanding of the nature of humanity than did say Jefferson.
Abigail, while also the subject of several popular biographies emerges a no nonsense formidable figure who very much knew her own mind and did not mind sharing it (thankfully). She was the woman who, with almost Roman stoicism, took the seven year old John Quincy Adams to witness the battle of Bunker Hill from a safe distance. While John was off in Philadelphia inspiring and arm twisting the delegates to the Second Continental Congress to consider themselves independent, she was living in the midst of a war zone.
Both characters portrayed her are thorough contrarians.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
J Ellis is one of the best, if not best, historians of the Revolutionary period in America. The story of the Adam's partnership and friendship is a must readPublished 2 months ago by C. Moore
I think there should be a comma after First, showing the priorities the Adams insisted upon.Published 11 months ago by Montana Gramma
Joseph J. Ellis is one of a handful of historians who is also a writer with a literary flair. His writing is always intelligent, clear, and beautiful. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Richard Hill
Great book!!!!!!! These two sacrificed a lot for our country and basically received little in return for their efforts. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Terry O.
This is a fairly short but complete biography on the Adams family. Ellis is one of the more respected historical writers and he does not disappoint with this book. Read morePublished 14 months ago by CJG