Top critical review
6 people found this helpful
Lots of info, slow read
on April 23, 2008
When I recently finally finished the 6th and final volume of this set, I realized that I knew more about Thomas Jefferson than I do about some of my friends. There is an incredible amount of information here. Although the Sally Hemings story is barely mentioned in these books because so much information has come out since the books were written, everything else is covered in great detail.
I reviewed the first 3 books as a whole under the third volume, and I'll do the same here on the final 3. I believed that the two hardest books to read were the volumes on Jefferson's presidency. Malone covered eight years in about 1,000 pages, and he went into such detail that it was actually hard to follow at times. By the time I finished reading about the Embargo Act, there was no way I could summarize it; he had written about it so much, and it was spread out throughout the volume. The same can be said, to some extent, with the Burr conspiracy.
The final book was better, even though he exhaustingly covered the establishment of the University of Virginia, probably more than necessary. I would have preferred more on the correspondence with John Adams. And while Malone gets into Jefferson's family relationships here, he was, as a writer, a better presenter of facts than he is a story teller. Nothing about this series is "narrative."
I would recommend the books to a very serious lover of history, and I suggest the audio book as a way of speeding up what will otherwise be a very slow read. But to one with casual interest in history who admires Jefferson, I'd suggest one of the many one-volume biographies.