Non-Fiction / History
Written by: David McCullough
Published By: Simon & Schuster
Reviewed by Dorothy Doremus
John Adams was the second president of the United States of America. There is so much more to this complex man than that little piece of trivia and it is all uncovered in David McCullough’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel. I will be honest, this is a long read but if you take the time you will be handsomely rewarded by the in-depth research that has gone into this treasure.
It starts out with John growing up in Braintree, tending farm and enjoying the pursuit of knowledge through books. John, as you will find out, is found of anything he can read and seeks out books each time he has an opportunity.
You see this man grow from a young boy to a young man with political ambitions that he is not quite sure he wants to pursue, but he knows his country needs him. He is elected to the Continental Congress where he passes the days away with his friend and confident Thomas Jefferson. Abigail, his wife, tends to the farm in her husband's absence, which always seems like too long for both of them. You see this in the many letters written back and forth over the period of time that John is in Philadelphia. The letters are simply the best touch, offering insight into life of that time. I thought that adding the letters really made you feel the bond between John and Abigail that much more and made it that much more personal.
John Adams also served as ambassador to France and Holland, countries whose governments assisted the young United States with loans. If it were not for John Adams and his hard fought treaties with these other countries, I fear the U.S. would never have been able to win the Revolutionary War and we might be under English rule today. Reading through John’s years abroad, I kind of had the feeling that his presence in those places was sort of our first United Nations forming.
The book has a cast of familiar characters whom you might be surprised by. Benjamin Franklin, for example, was not well liked by Adams who found him sort of what we would call unprofessional today. Even his friendship with Jefferson became strained when he found himself on the opposite side of the party.
Adams is portrayed as a man who had great honor and duty to his country and made many sacrifices for it. He was a man of great wisdom, but is sometimes shown to be a little off his rocker by fellow members of Congress hungry for power, like Alexander Hamilton.
I highly enjoyed the novel, but I must confess that I have not seen the mini-series. For some reason, I always end up loving the novel and then when I see the movie, it sort of leaves me a tad disappointed. Reading this will not leave you with that feeling at all. The only part that I found challenging - my favorite part - was the letters. They were awesome, but the old English writing made it a little awkward to read at first, so just take your time and be patient. It will pay off.