MY THOMAS by Roberta Grimes


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 A pedantic, tedious hardcover debut in which Grimes (the paperback Almost Perfect) presents an imaginary journal kept by Martha Jefferson, beloved wife of Thomas, during the passionate but tragically few years of their marriage. Thomas and Patty (as Martha was known to her family) have eyes only for each other from their first meeting in October 1770, but although a 21-year-old widow with a young son, Patty is determined never to marry again, so shattered was she by her husband's preference for his slave mistress over her. The courtship proceeds in spite of her resolve, however, and eventually Thomas's love and respect for her overcome her objections. Married New Year's Day, 1772, they move to cramped temporary lodgings while Monticello is being painstakingly built, and begin to raise a family. The issue of slave emancipation becomes a frequent theme through the years as naive Patty learns the bitter realities of the black experience from her temperamental but trusted handmaid, Betty, who was her late father's concubine and bore him many children (though she despised him for keeping her from her husband). Meanwhile, the political situation in Virginia and the Colonies takes Thomas away from Patty for long periods, and the pain of each parting is recorded faithfully, along with many details of the war for American independence. Not surprisingly, the births, stillbirths, and deaths of their children figure prominently also, as do countless instances of Patty's liver-fevers and other ailments, which kept her husband increasingly by her side until she died in 1782--an event that left him bereft of his senses for a time, but that finally allowed him to return to the political sphere he loved with a similar intensity. Historically accurate and sincere--but also a redundant, overly precious patchwork of a courageous woman's private thoughts and the colorful American life swirling around her.

Pub Date: Jan. 20th, 1993
ISBN: 0-385-42399-3
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1992