I loved the book, but I have a considerable interest in history, anthropology and the law. I have read the other reviews, and believe they reflect that this book is not for everyone, but is very much for some. I found the details about the legal system pertaining to slavery in Paris, Virginia, and elsewhere in the U.S. VERY interesting. I also loved the detail about the daily life of Sally Hemings, her brother, Thomas Jefferson and his household. For some, an abridged version would probably be a better choice, but I loved all the detail.
For the first 30 minutes or so I was pretty worried that this was going to be very dry and disappointing. After getting into it, however, I found that it was extremely informative. Rather than just providing sterile facts, it really goes into the laws and history and helps the listener understand what contributed to creating the environment that the Hemingses lived in. I would highly recommend this book.
This is an outstanding book, its National Book Award for 2008 well-deserved. And it is an outstanding audiobook too, not too dense to be followed on earphones or car-speakers, but also not a "popular history" made up of so much fluff & trivia to keep the reader's attention. It is very well narrated too ... the narrator goes at a good verbal speed, pronounces things correctly (often not the case in audiobooks), good emphasis. Not at all boring or dissertation-like. I am not sure what book the previous reviewer was listening to, but that reviewer's experience did not resemble my experience in the slightest.
This book was doubtless ground-breaking, and I found the historical facts to be fascinating. But writing was tediously repetitive, and the reader/narrator really hard to endure for long periods of time. Although I'd like to finish the book, I don't know if I can get through it. Probably a better "read" than "listen."
Using the same documentary evidence as Jefferson's many historians but much common sense in arriving at conclusions, the author has built a believable case and convinced me that the days of protecting the icon from "scandal" are over. In fact she convinced me that there was no scandal in the fact of a lonely man's attraction to a beautiful young girl who happened to be his beloved wife's half-sister.
Ms. Gordon-Reed is so thorough in all this that at times one gets to be a little anxious for the next part to begin. Stay with it - it's well worth it.
This book provides great historical value of not only the lives of Jefferson and the Hemingses; but also of the values of the time. It provides insight into the thoughts of the era. I found it fascinating. We should become educated of the thoughts and customs of the times as provided in this book before we judge the actions of our historical leaders.
The strength of this book is that doesn’t merely provide a narrative of two families’ lives ~ the Jeffersons and the Hemingses of Monticello ~ although it certainly does that very well. Equally important, it explores the underlying issues that frame the story of these two families, especially in terms of race, class, gender, and the condition of being enslaved as opposed to free. For some, these underlying issues may seem tedious; for others (and I’m among these), they greatly enrich the narrative.
Perhaps an abridged version would be better, but this book is just too long with too much minutia for an unabridged audiobook. Gordon-Reed's research is amazingly detailed, but it makes for a tedious audiobook. Two hours in and I have yet to hear anything about Thomas Jefferson or Sally Hemmings. We're still on one of Hemmings' white grandfathers, having completed some introductory material about her black grandmother and a good bit of stage-setting about slavery in Virginia.
I own the book itself and had purchased the audiobook because I never got around to reading the book. Now I think my best strategy is to go to the book to skim the early material and find where the real meat begins. Then I'll skip forward in the audio. Perhaps that will solve the tedium problem.
Dry, dry dry! I was excited to listen to this book but was sorely disappointed. It is written in a very academic style in which the author verifies her point over and over again with citations that would be better left for footnotes. I felt like the author was preparing to defend her dissertation in front of a review committee. Couldn't take it any more after 5 hours.
I have to say that I am very disappointed. I saw this author give an hour long interview on TV and I was so psyched to read this book. What a letdown! A previous reviewer noted that this book read like a dissertation and they are absolutely correct. I am finding it difficult to keep the many names and lineages straight because I am so bogged down by all the minutia & constant interruptions - speculations, opinions, etc... This style does not lend itself to a cohesive read. The subject matter is fascinating, the method used to convey the information leaves much to be desired. It would be best to purchase this book in hard copy so that you are able to reread convoluted passages as necessary to fully grasp their meaning. I am also approx. 5 hours in and am lost. I am torn between starting over and trying again from the beginning or just simply throwing in the proverbial towel. The narrator's voice and delivery are fine, she does a good job with what she has to work with, but listening to this book has the same effect on me that a white noise machie does. I am kicking myself for not listening to the other poor reviews.