I had high hopes for this book, but they were quickly doused in a torrent of verbiage. There is good information contained in this book, but it could be conveyed in perhaps a quarter of the space. The remaining 3/4 is at best speculative and at worst pointless.
I didn't manage to read it to the end -- despite my best intentions of doing so. After a long, detailed section devoted to the many well-known differences between love for a child (in this case, daughter) and love for a partner (in this case, Sally Hemmings), I found that listening to nothing was a better use of my time.
This is a fascinating topic and teaches us so much about the founding fathers and the contradictions and hypocrisy of those times. However, the lengthy efforts of the author to be a politically correct and her rampant and tedious speculation about who might have felt this or who might have experienced that, killed the buzz for me. The facts are sparse so just give us the facts! Your readers are smart! We can cope with a sparsely documented life, but this was like walking in a fog of words to glimpse a few trees. The book could have been half the length and far more interesting.
Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.
“The Hemingses of Monticello” is a disappointment because it mixes facts with opinion when corroborating evidence is unavailable. It appears biased by a laudable but misguided agenda.
Though one easily agrees that slavery demeans humanity and distorts the truth of human equality, the Jefferson/Hemings social and emotional relationship is marred by the author’s psychological explanation of Sally Hemings’ thoughts and feelings. The author, Annette Gordon-Reed, is an educated historian, not a trained psychiatrist or psychologist. Gordon-Reed speculates when facts are not evident about Thomas Jefferson’s common-law-wife, Sally Hemings. Neither Jefferson nor Hemings left any written record of their conjugal relationship. The only facts of relationship are the genetic evidence of their progeny.
As a reviewer, one empathizes with Gordon-Reed’s biography of the Hemings because sticking to corroborated facts often defeats interest in an author’s writing. Personally, the biography of Washington by Ron Chernow, and Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff, were disappointing because they fail to reveal much about the thoughts and feelings of their subjects. Chernow’s and Schiff’s difficulty is related to their desire for corroborating facts. In contrast, Gordon-Reed reads between the lines a little more than is justified by the facts.
This book is significant for its thoughtful exploration of the inner and outer lives of the Hemings family at Monticello. The double meanings of legal and extra legal actions relative to slavery are thoroughly explored but without sentimentality. Karen White is a magnificent narrator.
Depends. It's an interesting book, but could have been tighter. Lots of repetitive information scattered throughout and the author's speculative leaps got old. Glad I listened to it, but it was a struggle to get through.
I was glad it was over. The end was an example of the good parts of the book, though - narrative style with minimal speculation.
It belabored topics and would not give the reader the credit of being able to draw obvious conclusions AND THEN these would be repeated many times. In fact I missed somehow Part 2 in the audio download and did not think I missed a beat due to the repetition.
And some of her analogies and interpretations were really contradictory and confusing.
She also belabored many situations with my not getting the point as to why. And other ones, like the downtrodden condition of slaves, we all know very well. Specific incidents well-told were of value.
And she would say, "We could suppose..." that this or that happened. Of course! Anyone would! Supposition is way too prevalent, much of what would have been going into the mind of the reader of such a book.
This book could have been MUCH shorter and much more crisp in delivery.
I am really disappointed and dumbfounded as to how something so poorly written could have received both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer - a political decision?
There are some nuggets of history that kept making it worth listening to.
But the narrator's cadence was really annoying and played into the unnecessary length and repetition of the book.
But actually I found that the book and narration was causing me to fall asleep while driving, and it was only when the narrator hit one of the emphatic words in her cadence that jolted me a bit. I finally had to stop listening while driving. I would arrive to work wiped out.
Absolutely not - I love historical books with social richness, like the Shipwreck that Saved Jamestown.
Hmmmm...don't know who I would recommend. For short readings, I see her being very good.
There are too many to list.
It was not told as a story.
Yes, I think that the characters should have had dialogue and then had different readers for each character.
I got bored. It was a documentary, listing facts and names. I like a story.
Can I trade this for something else?
The text, while interesting, tends to be repetitive. The narrator consistently errs in inflection and has a monotonous voice.
Yes, to read, not to listen to.
Annette Gordon Reed begins this book perfectly: let's believe the stories black slaves told of their lives and experiences just as we believe those of white slaveholders. The book is deeply engaging. In telling the story of the Hemings family, you see the early history of America in a truer light - more disturbing - but rings very true.