Reviewed by Bethany Kelly
America’s First Daughter, written by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie, is the story of Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph, the daughter of Thomas Jefferson. Dray and Kamoie put a lot of research and time into this novel, using the subject matter of many letters and original sources to tell the tale of Patsy’s devotion to her father. Written in Patsy’s perspective, this book gives us a unique look into one of America’s founding fathers, and the legacy he and his family shaped for themselves.
After a promise she makes to her mother on her deathbed, Patsy follows her father when he is appointed the American minister to France. In this enchanting country, Patsy learns the ins and outs of politics. She also learns of her father’s relationship with Sally, a slave her own age. While trying to take care of her father and herself, she finds herself falling in love with William Short, Thomas Jefferson’s protégé. Torn between love and the promise she made to her mother, Patsy must decide whether or not she can be William’s wife and a devoted daughter.
This choice is the catalyst that shapes the rest of her life. How far will Patsy go to protect the legacy that her father has built? And will she ever truly be happy being America’s First Daughter?
First off, when reading this novel, I could tell that there was a lot of research that went into making this novel as historically accurate as possible. It made me very happy to read the epilogue and find out why the authors made the decisions they did in telling the Jeffersons’ story. I immensely enjoyed seeing Thomas Jefferson through the eyes of his daughter. It made for a very interesting read.
This book made me laugh, cry, and scroll through the pages in disgust. It was difficult to read about the poverty that the very person who wrote the Declaration of Independence had to go through because of the greed of the populace of the very country he so greatly helped. It also reminded me why I should be forever grateful to live in the United States of America, and why I should be grateful for how far we have come as a country. Whereas we used to be a country tainted by slavery, we are now a country where most strive to treat everyone fairly and equally.
I can’t really comment on the subject matter of the novel, as it was all based in fact, but I will say that I really enjoyed the writing style. When I saw that the book was written by two authors, I was worried that there would be a disconnect in the writing–that was not the case. It was very well-written, and the stylistic choices paid homage to the time period this book was written about, while also making sure that it was understandable to the readers of our time period.
The fact that this book was over 600 pages was a little intimidating at first, but I got so swept up in the story that as I read the final page, I didn’t want it to be over. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys highly accurate historical fiction.
Bethany Kelly is currently getting her MFA at Goddard College and has a BA in English. She is a writer, editor, and stay-at-home mother and wife who spends her spare time (when she has some) reading and cooking. Check out her website at www.bckwritingcorner.com.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by William Morrow Paperbacks. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.