Wednesday, October 28, 2009

john adams - ii

I finished John Adams last night after work. I thought it was great. This book isn't a page turner; I didn't find this book taking over my life and squeezing out all my spare time, as some books do, but the story was very gratifying in any case.

Abigail Adams, by Benjamin Blythe, 1766

I wrote about this book about a week ago, and talked about how the story was fleshed out using all the different source materials the author could find. In the acknowledgments at the end of the book, McCullough states that the Adamses left behind more personal, written material than any of their contemporaries. Adams loved books, and he also marked in them in the margins. Treating the written word more like a conversation with the author, he would respond to the authors statements with his pen in the margins. McCullough says one book has over 12,000 words in the margins!

The other thing I felt strongly, was how the personal correspondence and diary entries, grounded Adams for me. I was delighted to read, near the end of the book, that others felt this way. After witnessing the re-acquaintance of his grand aunt, late in life, with her old friend, Adams, Josiah Quincy wrote, "It is a surprise to find a great personage so simple, so perfectly natural, so thoroughly human."

I've included the pastel of Abigail Adams done just after they were married, by a Salem artist, because she figures so greatly in the story and in Adams' life. She's his anchor, and his greatest friend. She was smart, well read, opinionated, funny, strong willed, and helped to guide Adams when he got caught up emotionally in an issue.

If you have any interest in the way the United States struggled for independence, and then struggled to stay that way, or about the men and women who worked so hard for it, I can't recommend this book enough. I learned more than all of my American History classes together, and had fun doing it. Read this book.

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