Saturday, March 12, 2016

Book Review: America's First Daughter

America's First DaughterAuthor: Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie
Publication Date: March 1, 2016
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks

In a compelling, richly researched novel that draws from thousands of letters and original sources, bestselling authors Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie tell the fascinating, untold story of Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph—a woman who kept the secrets of our most enigmatic founding father and shaped an American legacy.

From her earliest days, Patsy Jefferson knows that though her father loves his family dearly, his devotion to his country runs deeper still. As Thomas Jefferson’s oldest daughter, she becomes his helpmate, protector, and constant companion in the wake of her mother’s death, traveling with him when he becomes American minister to France.

It is in Paris, at the glittering court and among the first tumultuous days of revolution, that fifteen-year-old Patsy learns about her father’s troubling liaison with Sally Hemings, a slave girl her own age. Meanwhile, Patsy has fallen in love—with her father’s protégé William Short, a staunch abolitionist and ambitious diplomat. Torn between love, principles, and the bonds of family, Patsy questions whether she can choose a life as William’s wife and still be a devoted daughter.

Her choice will follow her in the years to come, to Virginia farmland, Monticello, and even the White House. And as scandal, tragedy, and poverty threaten her family, Patsy must decide how much she will sacrifice to protect her father's reputation, in the process defining not just his political legacy, but that of the nation he founded.

“I’m not only my father’s daughter, but also a daughter of the nation he founded. And protecting both is what I’ve always done.” 

“Sons of a revolution fight for liberty. They give blood, flesh, limbs, their very lives. But daughters . . . we sacrifice our eternal souls.”

“Your care is ever a comfort. Just be sure to attend to your own happiness, too.”

Although I love history, Thomas Jefferson and his legacy have never been topics that I have covered in my research, until I read this book. Now I am spending time dedicated solely to researching this man and his daughter, Patsy. And if you think politics are corrupt now, just wait until you read this book; your mind will be blown. Betsy, whose real name is Martha, is the heroine of this novel and readers will follow her journey after her father passes away. Patsy spends most of her life by her father’s side and is his most loyal and avid supporter. She will sacrifice everything to clear his name. Readers get to enjoy Patsy’s younger life with her father as well because of her frequent flashbacks.

This book was exceptionally well-written and is one of my favorite books so far this year. The research that must have gone into this book is astronomical. I have read that Jefferson took notes on every single day of his life, and it is with journal and notes like this that authors like Dray and Kamoie can put together amazing stories like this one. The author did not leave out one single detail regarding the time period. Slavery was depicted as harshly as it was all those years ago and other living conditions were discussed as well. The smaller characters add a nice twist as well; the book is over six hundred pages in length, and so many wonderfully rich characters fill those pages. I suggest diving into this book as soon as you get the chance.

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at William Morrow in exchange for my honest review***

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