Book Review

‘America’s First Daughter’ by Stephanie Dray

afd sd lkSTORY: In a compelling, richly researched novel that draws from thousands of letters and original sources, bestselling authors Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie tell the fascinating, untold story of Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph—a woman who kept the secrets of our most enigmatic founding father and shaped an American legacy.

From her earliest days, Patsy Jefferson knows that though her father loves his family dearly, his devotion to his country runs deeper still. As Thomas Jefferson’s oldest daughter, she becomes his helpmate, protector, and constant companion in the wake of her mother’s death, traveling with him when he becomes American minister to France.

It is in Paris, at the glittering court and among the first tumultuous days of revolution, that fifteen-year-old Patsy learns about her father’s troubling liaison with Sally Hemings, a slave girl her own age. Meanwhile, Patsy has fallen in love—with her father’s protégé William Short, a staunch abolitionist and ambitious diplomat. Torn between love, principles, and the bonds of family, Patsy questions whether she can choose a life as William’s wife and still be a devoted daughter.

Her choice will follow her in the years to come, to Virginia farmland, Monticello, and even the White House. And as scandal, tragedy, and poverty threaten her family, Patsy must decide how much she will sacrifice to protect her father’s reputation, in the process defining not just his political legacy, but that of the nation he founded.

REVIEW: This story revolves around Thomas Jefferson and his daughter, Patsy Jefferson. It begins with the death of Jefferson’s wife, Martha, leaving behind 3 daughters, Patsy, Polly, and baby Lucy. Jefferson is left bereft and Patsy takes over the responsibility for her father and sisters.

Jefferson is then sent to France and Patsy accompanies him. There, she acts as her father’s hostess, learns French, and how to interact well with international people. She also meets William Short who steals her heart. When it comes time to return to America, Short wants Patsy to stay in France but she feels she cannot leave her father so they are parted.

Back in America, Patsy meets and marries Thomas Randolph.

Without going into a long dissertation here, suffice to say that Patsy becomes her father’s lifelong advocate including taking the name, Martha, as her mother was named. We learn of Jefferson’s illicit long affair with Sally, a slave, and the children they had. Martha’s marriage to Randolph is rocky and she gives birth to 11 children.

There are hardships faced by many members of the family and while Martha does not like slavery, in Virginia, it is accepted.

Much of the story here is gleaned through the letters Jefferson wrote and the numerous papers he amassed.

This is a difficult review for me to write because there is so much I want to share. But it such a beautifully written novel that I hope will find itself on everyone’s bookshelf. I would love to see this book as required reading in every American history class.

A huge thank you to the authors for their amazing research in writing this novel. It is a must read.

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

Connie for b2b


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