Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams

Louisa Thomas. Penguin Press, $29.95 (512p) ISBN 978-1-59420-463-0
In this elegant, sweeping biography, journalist Thomas (Conscience) unfolds the often difficult but always interesting life of Louisa Catherine Adams. Born in London in 1775 to an American father and an English mother, Louisa Johnson was raised to become the wife of a well-to-do American. As if on cue, in 1795 American diplomat John Quincy Adams, son of founding father John Adams, turned up at a dinner party at the Johnson home. John Quincy and Louisa married two years later. Being a diplomat’s wife wasn’t easy or glamorous. Thomas describes the social and political whirl of Berlin, St. Petersburg, and Paris in glittering detail without shying away from the stark realities. The Adamses were short of money, Louisa was frequently ill, and sometimes war threatened their safety. Between diplomatic appointments, John Quincy pursued law and politics in the U.S., moving Louisa and their children with him as he deemed necessary. He became a senator, secretary of state, president, and representative, with Louisa bolstering his career through her considerable social skills. Thomas wisely avoids the “behind every great man” canard, acknowledging that while Louisa’s help was essential to John Quincy’s career, of greater importance are the ways in which she learned about herself and the world and developed her own voice. Illus. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 01/11/2016
Release date: 04/05/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 682 pages - 978-1-4104-8814-5
Paperback - 512 pages - 978-0-399-56313-3
Compact Disc - 978-0-14-752478-2
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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