Clover Adams: A Gilded and Heartbreaking Life

Natalie Dykstra. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-0-618-87385-2
Clover Adams, wife of historian Henry Adams (a great-grandson and grandson of American presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, respectively), spent time with "a wide array of writers and artists, politicians and dignitaries, doctors and academics." She "poured her energies and ambition into Henry's work," collected art, read widely, and traveled often. She was not, however, without her own preoccupations and worries. In this substantial biography, Dykstra sheds light on Clover's remarkable life and her unfortunate suicide at 42, when she drank potassium cyanide, a chemical crucial to her nascent passion for photography, selected prints of which are published here. "With her camera, she recorded her world for herself and for others to see, and in less than three years, her collection would grow to 113 photographs arranged in three red-leather albums." By studying these images, as well as notebooks and correspondence over the years, Dykstra distills insight on her subject's beliefs and emotions. Though she sometimes relies too heavily on the letters themselves (primarily those from Clover to her father), she manages to re-create a compelling story. With empathy and compassion, she gives voice to a woman nearly written out of existence. After Clover's death, Henry "almost never spoke of her and did not even mention her in his Pulitzer Prize-winning autobiography, The Education of Henry Adams." With this volume, Dykstra provides Clover's life renewed significance. B&W photos. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 03/19/2012
Release date: 02/01/2012
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-0-547-60790-0
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