June 14, 2016
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Many people would break out into a cold sweat if handed a 600+ page book to read. When I saw Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemmings (A) by Stephen O’Connor at the library my heart started to race with excitement. Having recently read America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laurie Kamoie, my curiosity was peaked by the subject. What would O’Connor write differently than Dray and Kamoie? What more could I learn about Sally Hemmings and her life with Thomas Jefferson?
O’Connor wrote in his Author’s Note that “he leapt straight into writing, composing scenes entirely out of chronological order and switching randomly between realism, fabulism, essay, prose poetry and quotation”. His goal was to compose a novel that would depict Jefferson and Hemmings in “fresh and surpising ways”. O’Connor was extremely successful. His delivery was such that I honestly feel like I know Sally Hemmings. To date, there isn’t much known about her but O’Connor made her real, believable and honest. He incorporated the facts about Jefferson’s life into every day life at Monticello both political and private. While it was a reach for me to understand some of his “fabulism”, I enjoyed his unique approaches ie, subway scenes, a biographical movie and character interviews.
Maybe Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemmings isn’t for the average reader but those who enjoy historical fiction will devour it. I honestly read 600 pages in four days. I didn’t want it to end. If you will only tolerate factual accountings then this isn’t the book for you. However, if you approach this novel with an open mind and curiosity you will not be disappointed. Perhaps a more accurate title for this book should be “Stephen O’Connor’s Imagines Thomas Jefferson Dreaming of Sally Hemmings.
January 11, 2016
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I am very excited to share America’s First Daughter (A) by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie with you. I requested the book for review because it struck a chord with my historical fiction addiction. I couldn’t be more pleased with this fantastic novel written about the daughter of Thomas Jefferson, Martha (Patsy) Jefferson Randolph.
This terrific book spans almost fifty years from the Revolutionary War to 1830. As Martha chronicles the life of her father while reviewing all his letters and publications soon after his death, she narrates the story of her family and the new republic of the United States.
The authors took some liberties with the telling but for the most part everything is well documented through the letters and essays. Some of the things I found the most amazing were the personal facts about Thomas Jefferson like the fact that he suffered terrible migraines that laid him low sometimes for weeks. The often-suggested fact that he had a slave mistress, Sally Hemmings was not ignored but explored pretty deeply.
Martha’s (Patsy) life was extremely interesting as well. She was her father’s confidante and savior many times during his life. She was the mother of ten children but also raised many nieces and nephews. Her husband was known to be extremely abusive both to her and her sons. Through it all she stayed loyal to the causes of liberty.
Often books that are 600 pages long are full of trivial facts and useless information. This is not the case here. In fact, I was left wanting more. My historical fiction addiction was definitely satisfied and I am sure if you love the genre as much as I do; you will devour American’s First Daughter too.