Author: Sally Cabot Gunning
Release Date: 09/06/2016
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (June 27, 2017)
From the critically acclaimed author of The Widow’s War comes a captivating work of literary historical fiction that explores the tenuous relationship between a brilliant and complex father and his devoted daughter—Thomas Jefferson and Martha Jefferson Randolph.
After the death of her beloved mother, Martha Jefferson spent five years abroad with her father, Thomas Jefferson, on his first diplomatic mission to France. Now, at seventeen, Jefferson’s bright, handsome eldest daughter is returning to the lush hills of the family’s beloved Virginia plantation, Monticello. While the large, beautiful estate is the same as she remembers, Martha has changed. The young girl that sailed to Europe is now a woman with a heart made heavy by a first love gone wrong.
The world around her has also become far more complicated than it once seemed. The doting father she idolized since childhood has begun to pull away. Moving back into political life, he has become distracted by the tumultuous fight for power and troubling new attachments. The home she adores depends on slavery, a practice Martha abhors. But Monticello is burdened by debt, and it cannot survive without the labor of her family’s slaves. The exotic distant cousin she is drawn to has a taste for dangerous passions, dark desires that will eventually compromise her own.
As her life becomes constrained by the demands of marriage, motherhood, politics, scandal, and her family’s increasing impoverishment, Martha yearns to find her way back to the gentle beauty and quiet happiness of the world she once knew at the top of her father’s “little mountain.”
Review: This was a slow going and at times difficult book to read but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t good. It took me far longer to read this book than it would have most books of this size but I still enjoyed the story. This was much different than the other books on Thomas Jefferson that I have read and I was impressed with the attention to detail that was included as well as how believable the fiction aspect was; I kept looking up events listed in the book, to find that they were historically correct.
The reason this was slow going and took me longer was that it didn’t have a lot of gripping or stimulating plot twists. This was a steady-paced historical novel with simple characters. The story flowed well, but without the resolution of problems that usually occurs within stories. It was filled with plenty of problems, but the solutions and resolutions were few. I understand that this reflects real life, and the life of the people represented, but it made for less compelling story.
I was excited to read a story about Thomas Jefferson, but I actually found his character boring. The story was mainly told through the eyes of Martha, not really anything from Thomas Jefferson. I was disappointed that there wasn’t more about him in this book. He was present, but we didn’t really get his take on things. This was basically the story of Thomas Jefferson’s daughter, rather than of father and daughter, as the title proclaims.
Martha was likable most of the time, she really took care of business when the men were away, she was a strong, clear headed woman that would make any of us proud. She was able to successfully manage multiple households far better than her husband and was incredibly underestimated by him. I loved how she rose to almost every challenge and was not easily defeated.
Recommendation: I did enjoy the story, the plot was interesting and like I mentioned earlier, very historically accurate. I learned a great deal from this and found the story line of Thomas Jefferson and Sally fascinating, though it was difficult to see past Martha’s objections. Overall, I would recommend this story to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.
About Sally Cabot Gunning:
A lifelong resident of New England, Sally Cabot Gunning has immersed herself in its history from a young age. She is the author of the critically acclaimed Satucket Novels—The Widow’s War, Bound, and The Rebellion of Jane Clarke—and, writing as Sally Cabot, the equally acclaimed Benjamin Franklin’s Bastard. She lives in Brewster, Massachusetts, with her husband, Tom.
*I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher. A positive review was not required. All opinions are my own.*