cover image Twilight at Monticello: The Final Years of Thomas Jefferson

Twilight at Monticello: The Final Years of Thomas Jefferson

Alan Pell Crawford. Tantor Media, $34.99 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-4001-0618-9

It's unusual for people to have been so active in their golden years that they should merit a full-length biography focused solely on their achievements during retirement. Such is the case with Thomas Jefferson, who spent his post-presidential years managing (often badly) the affairs of his grand estate, corresponding with dignitaries and dealing with wayward relatives. Crawford is a careful, even micromanagerial, historian, prone to tangents about details that are often more interesting than the main narrative. On audio, such digressions can be confusing, and in the hands of narrator James Boles, they are sometimes tedious. Boles has an elegant but almost mournful style, with sluggish diction and delivery. His voice is a good match for Jefferson, who was erudite but deliberate and soft-spoken, but the tone changes little for the other players, including Jefferson's hotheaded in-laws. This makes for a monochromatic reading that does not do full justice to the complexities of the text. Simultaneous release with the Random House hardcover (Reviews, Oct. 22, 2007).