Monday, December 31, 2012

Book Report: Abigail Adams

After reading David McCullough's John Adams (and crying over much of the HBO miniseries based on the same), I found myself curious about Mrs. Abigail Adams. Wise and witty, a steadfast partner to her oft absent husband, Abigail was an impressive woman. And not just impressive for her times--impressive for all time. Woody Holton's biography, Abigail Adams, shows Abigail to be, as well as a wife and mother, a proto-feminist, a shrewd financial investor, and a wily politician in her own right...

One of the elements that makes the Adams family so special (other than the father/son presidents), is that John and Abigail left a legacy of written material behind. Legal and financial documents, diaries, and letters--oh, the letters!--over 1,200 in total. Being that John and Abigail spent so many years apart (John was tasked with securing loans from the French and Dutch in order to finance the American Revolution), their letters are a chronicle of all aspects of their lives and times. Everything from financial and family obligations to inside jokes, political and religious discussions, gossip, advice, complaints and reproaches, local news, and professions of love. Their long correspondence illuminates one of the great American stories, a dual path of love and liberty. 

If you liked Holton's Abigail Adams, might I make a recommendation? You may also enjoy Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman, Marie Antoinette: The Journey, and Cleopatra: A Life. Reading biographies of Abigail, Catherine, and Marie Antoinette was especially interesting; though they lived vastly different lives, they were all roughly contemporary to one another and shared many of the same qualities. Three tremendous women, three wonderful books. 

Here's to happy reading the in the new year!

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