Delving into the life of a highly regarded president doesn’t make sense, unless the author can present a fresh perspective, which is precisely what Meacham does in Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power. This novel brings Jefferson to life as a pragmatic, dynamic and idealistic man. Jefferson was regarded as a flirt, a lover and a dreamer. He was educated as an attorney and ran for office at the age of 25. He’d spend the next 41 years in politics. He shall always remain in our history as our founding father and our third president.
Meacham does not attempt to sway the reader into believing Jefferson was perfect. He was a philandering slave owner who had a gaggle of children; six of those with his slave, Sally Hemmings. His misgivings do not exactly paint a portrait of a founding father, however his ideals do. I enjoyed reading this book; it gave an intimate portrait of our third president. The words paint a man with a deft belief in liberty and the willingness and drive to pursue it to no end. Jefferson prevailed in his understanding of government and his susceptibility to change the innate culture of it. Do not read this book to gather light around the constitution but rather to understand the person behind the ideas. In the words of Meacham himself, “He dreamed big but understood that dreams become reality only when their champions are strong enough and wily enough to bend history to their purposes.”
The one difficulty I found as a reader was keeping the ‘cast of characters’ straight. I literally had to draw up a family tree in order to keep all the relationships square. I can only say that while the cast of characters is long, the read is well worth it. I recommend this book to everyone.
Jessi Buchmann lives in Beaverton, Oregon and works as a Project Manager. When she is not reading she can be found: writing, painting or wreaking havoc on her house doing home repairs.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Random House. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.