Follow Us @burtonreview

Feb 12, 2018

America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
  • William Morrow Paperbacks (March 1, 2016) 624 pages
  • my copy was a library loan

The New York Times and USA Today Bestseller

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 have always had an interest in the colonial history and the founding of America along with the rich history that often gets overlooked in hist-fic as a whole. I still feel that I have tons to learn about the 1700s of American life and this novel really puts into perspective the turmoils of the American Revolution and how it affected the families of those thrust into the political arena of the times. This novel is a chunky one that tells the story of Thomas Jefferson as told by his daughter Patsy's point of view.

Patsy's character is one to love: her compassion, her devotion to her father and his causes are the crux of this tale. The sacrifices are many, and it brings home how grateful modern Americans should be for those who made it their life work's to bring America the freedoms it was founded for. We see how Thomas Jefferson could have been as a man - and not just a presidential figure. We see how low he gets and yet we don't really see him at a high due to facts the reader is made privy to with his personal life.

The novel addresses controversial topics such as slavery, marital abuse, alcoholism and depression as seen through the eyes of Patsy. While the story started off a bit slow I eventually tuned in and became well invested with Patsy and the supporting characters. The romance of a young Patsy and her father's colleague was a turn-off when it began so young but I can understand why the authors included it. The book is definitely long but I cannot see where I would have edited anything much out aside from the young love bit. The narrative really does suck you in and make you feel like visiting Monticello, the home of the prized home of the Jeffersons.

While I am late to the party with this one - if you had not had the chance to pick this one up during its initial release a few years ago please move it forward on your to-be-read pile because it is well worth the time. Towards the last quarter of the book I was crying my eyes out. Yup, crying about Thomas Jefferson. Only a fellow reader would understand.

I turned off commenting long ago on the blog but I welcome comments at the Facebook page here.