First Family: Abigail & John Adams

Joseph J. Ellis, Knopf, $27.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-307-26962-1
Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Ellis (Founding Brothers) gives "the premier husband-wife team in all American history" starring roles in an engrossing romance. His Abigail has an acute intellect, but is not quite a protofeminist heroine: her ambitions are limited to being a mother and helpmeet, and in the iconic correspondence she often strikes the traditional pose of a neglected wife who sacrifices her happiness by giving up her husband to the call of duty. The author's more piquant portrait of John depicts an insecure, mercurial, neurotic man stabilized by Abigail's love and advice. Ellis's implicit argument—that the John/Abigail partnership lies at the foundation of the Adams family's public achievements—is a bit over-played, and not always to the advantage of the partnership: "Her judgment was a victim of her love for John…," Ellis writes of Abigail's support for the Alien and Sedition Acts, the ugliest blot on John's presidency, all of which explains little and excuses less. Still, Ellis's supple prose and keen psychological insight give a vivid sense of the human drama behind history's upheavals. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/16/2010
Release date: 10/01/2010
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 509 pages - 978-0-7393-7783-3
Ebook - 203 pages - 978-0-307-59431-0
Compact Disc - 978-0-7393-6874-9
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-307-38999-2
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-307-73779-3
Compact Disc - 978-0-307-73778-6
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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