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Mike

PULASKI, NY, United States | Member Since 2011

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  • American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 5 mins)
    • By Joseph J. Ellis
    • Narrated By Susan O’Malley
    Overall
    (125)
    Performance
    (62)
    Story
    (60)

    For a man who insisted that life on the public stage was not what he had in mind, Thomas Jefferson certainly spent a great deal of time in the spotlight, even in his retirement. In American Sphinx, Ellis sifts the facts from the legend to find the heart of the man who, at the grass roots, is no longer liberal or conservative, agrarian or industrialist, pro- or anti-slavery, privileged or populist.

    ks says: "Badly Scratched Record"
    "Excellent book despite audio issue"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I was initially looking for a historical biography of Jefferson, but other than the 100+ hr multi-volume set and a few very short (less than 10 hr) audiobooks, this seemed to be the best that Audible had. It is not a historical biography, but an analysis of Jefferson's ideology along the historical timeline of his life. In other words, you DO get some historical information and context, but not a lot more than you may have already known if you've read John Adams by David McCullough and Washington; A Life by Ron Chernow.

    That said, I felt the insights provided were fascinating, especially since there is such a contrast between the writings of Jefferson, Adams and Washington. Adams was so direct, Washington said as much with what he did NOT say as with what he DID, while Jefferson's sincerity at times seems to clash with a tendency to downplay disagreements he may have with the intended reader. Obviously this is seen when slavery is mentioned in his correspondence with fellow Virginians and with others opposed to the institution, but this was also evident in his political disagreements with Adams. Even while Adams, after the resurrection of their correspondence later in life, tried to entice him into debate on subjects of prior disagreement, Jefferson often avoided those subjects even though there is no evidence to suggest he had changed his mind on those issues; this, to me, leaves open speculation as to how such a debate would have played out. That is for our imagination only, unfortunately.

    Other listeners have noted audio problems which I also experienced. I'm not familiar with recording equipment but to me it sounded like an overly sensitive microphone which mutes harsh syllables. For example words like "port," "continent," or "book" sound instead like "ort," "ontinent," or "ook." Annoying and distracting, yes, but they did not prevent me from understanding or enjoying the book. The only thing I can compare it to is if an individual with impaired speech were to narrate an audiobook. Despite this issue, I feel that the price paid for this audiobook was money well spent.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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