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JEFFERSON: A NOVEL Hardcover – October 1, 1993

3.1 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.

From Booklist

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
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 424 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; First Edition edition (October 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 055309470X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553094701
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #526,414 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on June 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed "Jefferson", probably because it escaped the dry boredom of a history textbook. The story was frank and honest, and perhaps that was it's downfall for me, because I really didn't like the character of Thomas Jefferson. Byrd did an excellent job, though there was quite a bit more about the French sex life than I would have cared to hear about. If you're not into history, don't touch this. You will be bored, but if you're interested in Jefferson, or his era, you will really enjoy this book.
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Format: Paperback
Through happenstance, I've read three of Max Byrd's novels in reverse order. The first (for me) being "Grant", then "Jackson", and finally this book, "Jefferson". At first, I felt that Byrd's books got better with each novel but toward the end of "Jefferson", I began to alter my view. It is a wonderful account of fictionalized history of Jefferson's time in Paris. They're some constants in each book. There's enough sex, including James Heming's visit to some of the brothels of Paris, to provide a lurid view for those that need such enticement and there's also the book within a book. In this book, William Short, who was Jefferson's secretary while he was this Nation's diplomat to France writes his memoirs of Jefferson. Byrd does a wonderful job with these memoirs, including a description of Patrick Henry's famous speech at St. John's church in Richmond. Furthermore, the book does an excellent job of contrasting very vocal Henry, who wrote little and seldom stayed for the "pick-and-shovel" work of committees and meetings, with Jefferson who seldom gave speeches but could put words onto paper that endure for all time...the Declaration of Independence among them. As a fan of General Lafayette I was pleased to see so much reference to this exceptional hero who is often overlooked. Byrd accurately portrays Lafayette as not overly brilliant but maintaining close ties to the American society of Paris and fueling the fires for the overthrow of the King. As with all of Byrd's work his detailed research lead to wonderful "tib-bits" of history that might otherwise reside only on dusty selves of scholar's holdings. This book is a wonderful account of Jefferson's time in Paris and deserving of a place in any library.
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Format: Paperback
A fine, readable account of Jefferson's tenure as ambassador to France after the American Rovolution. Shows Thomas Jefferson as a man of conviction, but complete with faults, conflicts and an amorous soul. The story is told through the character of William Short, Jefferson's secretary and is the most readable and historically accurate account of Jefferson and his time I have read. Complemented with references to Franklin, Adams, Layfette and others the book is intriguing and very readable and enjoyable. Not dry or scholarly this book gives anyone interested in "Jefferson, The Man" a novel to enjoy as well as an opportunity to learn more about Jefferson and his times. Well worth the price and time invested.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author uses the same approach of Gore Vidal in his novel about Burr. The major part of the novel is about Jefferson's stay in France. However, the narration is sometimes boring due to the absence of any story.
The facts presented is howver, historically correct and is thus worth reading once.
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Format: Paperback
Having read "Jackson, A novel" first, I was very disappointed with this effort. And it takes some effort to struggle through this book. Little insight is provided into the enigmatic Jefferson. The character is not well developed and the book lacks pace, being mired in insipid detail. The members of the supporting cast are presented as effete sycophants or sybarites. Even the illicit relationships lack spice. In all fairness, the book may have spark interest in some as a period piece, but it didn't do much for me. I loved "Jackson", was not impressed with "Jefferson", but I look forward to "Grant" with much anticipation.
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