AMERICA'S FIRST DAUGHTER by Stephanie Dray

AMERICA'S FIRST DAUGHTER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A Founding Father’s daughter tells all!

At the age of 10, upon the death of her mother, Patsy Jefferson steps into the role of mistress of the house for her father, Thomas. Patsy, our narrator, recounts the story of a man of great contradictions. He proclaims his love for domestic life but is repeatedly drawn to public service and repeatedly fails to manage his great estate, Monticello, losing it after his death to creditors. Then there is the matter of his slaves—“Our slave-holding spokesman for freedom,” taunts a schoolmate of Patsy’s when Jefferson serves as an American envoy in Paris. His hypocrisy includes a long-standing affair with Sally Hemings, who was not only his slave, but his wife’s sister. Authors Dray (Daughters of the Nile, 2013, etc.) and Kamoie (Irons in the Fire, 2007) have performed tireless research. Whether it's detailing Patsy’s life as a debutante in Paris, where she dances with Lafayette and witnesses the first flickers of the French Revolution, or recounting the world of a Virginia plantation, they've done their homework. Indeed, their fidelity to history can be excessive: so many Virginia cousins, scandals, and disinheritances can weary the reader, especially when the prose takes a sappy turn (“Watching him struggle against undeserved abuse from such a villain made me forgive him, truly”). Patsy marries her cousin Tom Randolph and bears him 11 children while enduring his abuse, but she remains most devoted to maintaining her father’s happiness, property, and legacy.

A thorough and well-researched if sometimes flowery saga of the Jefferson family.

Pub Date: March 1st, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-06-234726-8
Page count: 624pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2016




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