First Family: Abigail & John Adams

  • by Joseph J. Ellis
  • Narrated by Kimberly Farr
  • 11 hrs and 31 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The Pulitzer Prize-winning, best-selling author of Founding Brothers and His Excellency brings America's preeminent first couple to life in a moving and illuminating narrative that sweeps through the American Revolution and the republic's tenuous early years.
John and Abigail Adams left an indelible and remarkably preserved portrait of their lives together in their personal correspondence: both Adamses were prolific letter writers (although John conceded that Abigail was clearly the more gifted of the two), and over the years they exchanged more than 1,200 letters. Joseph J. Ellis distills this unprecedented and unsurpassed record to give us an account both intimate and panoramic; part biography, part political history, and part love story.
After they married, the couple were separated nearly as much as they were together. John's political career took him first to Philadelphia, where he became the boldest advocate for the measures that would lead to the Declaration of Independence. Later he was sent to Paris, where he served as a minister to the court of France alongside Benjamin Franklin. These years apart stressed the Adamses' union almost beyond what it could bear.
John was elected the nation's first vice president, but by the time of his reelection, Abigail's health prevented her from joining him in Philadelphia, the interim capital. She no doubt had further reservations about moving to the swamp on the Potomac when John became president, although this time he persuaded her.
President Adams inherited a weak and bitterly divided country from George Washington. The political situation was perilous at best, and he needed his closest advisor by his side: "I can do nothing," John told Abigail after his election, "without you."
In Ellis's rich and striking new history, John and Abigail's relationship unfolds in the context of America's birth as a nation.

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What the Critics Say

"Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Ellis gives 'the premier husband-wife team in all American history' starring roles in an engrossing romance.... Ellis's supple prose and keen psychological insight give a vivid sense of the human drama behind history's upheavals." (Publishers Weekly)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Fascinating insight

I acquired a hitherto non-existent interest in John and Abigail Adams through the TV series, which seems to have been largely based on the First Couple's letters. I loved the TV show (apart from the tricksy annoyng irrelavant camera angles...don't get me started!) but this book drills down in much more detail into a fascinating period of American (and World) politics and society.
As the author points out, the longer John and Abigail were apart, the more information the biographer can glean from their lives. Their loss is indeed our gain.
Mr Ellis manages to walk the line beautifully between John's preoccupations with his position in the National Pantheon (with which he was clearly very obsessed) and Abigail's concerns with domestic dangers and concerns. Three of their 4 children seem to have lived very damaged lives, and John blamed himself for "not being there", but Abigail's support for him and her outspoken,and very advanced political views, mean she was a thinker and activist in her own right.
A fascinating look at a fine couple, with just the right level of not too outrageous speculation to fill in the gaps in the voluminous correspondence.
Well read and presented, I can strongly recommend
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- Ian

Book Details

  • Release Date: 26-10-2010
  • Publisher: Random House Audio