Monday, May 23, 2016
Book Club: America's First Daughter
Here's a fact about me that you may not know: I'm a huge U.S. history nerd. Why did that feel like a huge confession? Haha! More specifically I find the American presidency to be an incredibly fascinating subject of study; especially the earlier presidents—I'm talking Founding Fathers here. During one of my admittedly frequent trips on the Internet reading up about the first ladies, I stumbled upon a bit of reading that is actually super recent!
America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie came out just this past March—I think this is the earliest I have ever read a book after its release (not counting Harry Potter!) The novel pieces together the story of Martha Jefferson Randolph, the oldest daughter of Thomas Jefferson and the woman who acted as his First Lady since he did not have a wife at the time of his presidency.
Much of the research for the book was done by reading the many letters that Thomas Jefferson is so famous for writing to friends, family, and some of the greatest thinkers of the day. Those letters also play an important role in telling the story.
The story is told from Martha's perspective as it opens in Monticello immediately following the death of the third president. She moves to his desk to go through all of his correspondences (each chapter opens with her reading a different letter) and to burn those that would have too great of a negative effect on her father's legacy. The timeline moves from her youth when the family was forced to flee Monticello as British forces closed in on the house, to Paris where Jefferson was assigned and where his daughters got a convent education, back to Virginia and the beginnings of Martha starting her own family while also keeping after her father, to Washington and her time as White House hostess, back to Monticello and the declining years of her father's life and her marriage.
This books was very difficult for me to put down—there was one day that I plowed through 200 pages before even realizing it. And the way the story is written drew so much emotion from this reader; I can't express the number of tears that I shed while reading America's First Daughter.
I definitely recommend that you add this one to your summer reading list...it's still early. While this novel certainly fed my inner historian, it also paid attention to my admiration of romance in literature. The relationships that Martha shares with William Short and her husband, Tom Randolph were filled with such emotion and both relationships were intense in their own different ways. If you do pick this book up, I would love to hear your thoughts on the story and how it is presented!
Do you enjoy historical novels? What's on your reading list this summer?