There have been few times when I turned the last page of a book and sighed with relief, but this was one of them, although I listened to the audio so it was the final word I heard that gave me such pause. My husband had been reading the print book and found it very slow, so we decided to listen to the audio version together. Although the reader was good, there was little he could do with such a drily written tome. It was well researched and there were abundant facts, too many at times, and that made the book tedious when it could have been alive if it was less bogged down with what felt like little known, unnecessary details that seemed included only to fill pages and pages as if there were a predetermined amount the author wished to write. At times it was so boring it was more like a sleeping pill! It was repetitive, and included too many incidental pieces of information like the coupling of his coming across a suicide victim (with a graphic description), with the purchase of a sheepdog. The relevance escaped me. Every famous personage of Jefferson’s time, that he knew or that knew of him, was mentioned in the book. Oftentimes the facts did not concern Jefferson, but them, instead. There was gossip, but not of the captivating kind. It was a potpourri of white noise, in some cases, just facts that could have been left out without altering the book’s value. I did not feel that Jefferson, the man, was developed that fully, but rather the facts about the people around him were stressed.
So, if I had to rate the book, I would give it 4 stars for research, 3 stars for the reader and 2 stars for the book itself, which simply failed to ignite my interest. Whole sections of the book slipped by without me being aware of the message as the reader devolved into a monotone because there was no way to inspire the narrative with any expression. Often the book went off on a tangent and explored issues that distracted me. Jefferson was one of the Founding Fathers, he helped draft the Constitution, authored the Bill of Rights, signed the Declaration of Independence, was Secretary of state, vice president, and finally, a two term President of the United States. The man was definitely a lover of politics, a believer in state’s rights and the voice of the people. His image should have jumped off the pages with passion. A brilliant man of many talents, he was interested in horticulture, music, farming, hunting, science, libraries, and politics. He loved America and wanted to see it thrive. He wanted to see the people happy and less divisive and he worked toward that goal his entire career, however, he was arrogant and was not easily persuaded to change his mind once set on a course of action.
He was a womanizer as a young man but when he finally married, at age 28, he was devoted to his wife and never married again after her death, honoring her wish that her children never have a step parent who cares nothing for them. Bereft, he takes his oldest child, Patsy, and travels to France where he becomes enamored with the country. Although he never married again, he was not celibate. He carried on a long term affair with Sally Hemmings, which began when she was just a young teenage slave of mixed race, who bore several of his children. Jefferson did not believe that slavery was moral, but nevertheless, he kept up the practice.
He never openly admitted his affair, Sally Hemmings, but modern science has proven that the DNA of her offspring are his. I am not sure the world would look kindly on that behavior, or that relationship, today. Perhaps a real student of history, rather than an ordinary reader, would be more suited to this book, since they would be interested in every detail, rather than the overview I desired. Jefferson may have died, but the legacy of his efforts will live on forever, since they formed the foundation of the country.