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Publisher's Summary

Pulitzer Prize, History, 2009

National Book Award, Nonfiction, 2008

This epic work tells the story of the Hemingses, whose close blood ties to our third president had been systematically expunged from American history until very recently. Now, historian and legal scholar Annette Gordon-Reed traces the Hemings family from its origins in Virginia in the 1700s to the family's dispersal after Jefferson's death in 1826.

It brings to life not only Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson but also their children and Hemings's siblings, who shared a father with Jefferson's wife, Martha. The Hemingses of Monticello sets the family's compelling saga against the backdrop of Revolutionary America, Paris on the eve of its own revolution, 1790s Philadelphia, and plantation life at Monticello. Much anticipated, this book promises to be the most important history of an American slave family ever written.

©2008 Annette Gordon-Reed (P)2008 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"Fascinating, wise and of the utmost importance.... Gordon-Reed's genius for reading nearly silent records makes this an extraordinary work." ( Publishers Weekly Starred Review)
"This is a masterpiece brimming with decades of dedicated research and dexterous writing." ( Library Journal Starred Review)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Lowell
  • Augusta, GA, United States
  • 02-12-12

A Real Encyclopedia of the Enslaved

The author has done tremendous research and opened my eyes to the real slave world of plantation owners and Thomas Jefferson. The concepts of slavery and the use of slave women to procreate more slaves and half brothers and sisters to the owners families is mind bending. Sally Hemings is led to a choice of freedom in Europe or enslavement in Monticello. Jefferson is fortunate that she chose to remain with him.

Jefferson, a man of letters and distinguished American, cannot see that slavery makes the Declaration of Independence, a hypocritical document.

Although the author goes off in many tangents from the principle story and bogs it down, it remains a tremendous piece of literature on the enslaved.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Barna
  • Elkridge, MD, United States
  • 01-01-10

Good but too long

THis was recommended as one of the top books for 2008 and I knew it was long but I have been driving a lot so I tried it. Really excellent story about Jefferson but moreso about the extended Hemings clan. I have read the book a while ago about Sally Hemings but this really fleshed out the entire clan and their history. I really enjoyed reading about their time in Paris and the possibility that Sally could be freed there. In the end, just too long and now if I see an audio book I might be interested in I compare its length to this one and if it is about as long I have to say no. Maybe in an abridged version it would be better.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Where was the Editor?

Subject matter is facinating... but there is way too much mundane information and speculation. The book's editor did a very poor job.
An abridged version might do the trick in helping the listner stay focused.
I use it every night to fall asleep!

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

Did not get through the first chapter

Two problems: very poorly narrated - read very quickly with no inflection; second problem - more a rant against slavery's injustice than informative

2 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

A PONDEROUS READ - SECOND ONLY TO XANAX!

This could have been a great historical account about the slaves owned and exploited by one of our founding fathers. One has to put themselves into the mindset of the time, when slavery was acceptable and viable to the building of this nation. Thomas Jefferson was a great statesman and, while it is understandable why he needed slaves to work Montecello, a leader of our new country has no excuse for taking a child into his bed. He raped Sally Hemings repeatedly throughout her life, starting when she was still a child, making her pregnant many times, yet never freed her. We learn very little of how Sally Hemings felt about her situation or about the issue of her union with Jefferson. The Hemings are just glossed over in this book, which is very well researched with respect to Jefferson, other statesmen, and the history of the new United States. It goes into great detail about everything and everyone except the subject of the work. This story could have been told in two parts rather than four. In fact, I failed to download Part 3 and didn't even miss it! Listening to this book at times was like childbirth - you knew you were working towards something great but why does it hurt so much of the time? Maybe an "abridged" version, with an emphasis on the oppressed rape victim Sally Hemings, would be a better read.

4 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Ed
  • San Antonio, TX, United States
  • 07-31-11

Narration and details require much patience

I'm a big fan of historical record and analysis, however, Gordon-Reed seems to get lost in the details and ends up making repeated conjectures about what happened and why to the extent to where it borders on fiction. I prefer lengthy books to listen to during my long commutes, however, I found myself wandering in attention due to the minutiae. Ther are only so many ways to make a particular point and the author runs over her theses until they're totally flattened. Also let's encourage our narrator to inhale less audibly between phrases. She's a "gasper" and needs some training or audio editing.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

Boring

I tried really hard to listen to this book but it was just too...well.. boring. I like details in the books I read and listen to but this was over the top. Maybe it would have been better if I had read it instead.

1 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Richard
  • Denver, CO, United States
  • 09-20-10

The authorr needed a stronger editor

Ms. Gordon Redd needed a red pencil taken to her book. I was very disappointed.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful