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Understanding Thomas Jefferson
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Understanding Thomas Jefferson

3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  112 ratings  ·  20 reviews
Recent biographies of Thomas Jefferson have stressed the sphinxlike puzzles of his character—famous champion of freedom yet lifelong slaveholder, foe of miscegenation yet secret lover of a beautiful slave for 30 years, aristocrat yet fervent advocate of government by the people. E. M. Halliday's absorbing and lucid portrait recognizes these and other puzzles about this gre ...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 2001)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 200)
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While I enjoyed the philosophical discussion over whether or not Jefferson was as forward-thinking as historians have portrayed him, I found this book to be a little annoying. The final chapter talked about the value of historical fiction - in particular, how Jefferson has been portrayed in that genre - and the use of artistic license to fill in the unknown details. But the entire first half of Halliday's book itself is filled with conjecture, mainly over Jefferson's amorous forays, on which the ...more
Inspired to buy and read this after visiting Montecello. I love that this book delves into his personal life and travels outside of his Presidency. Appropriate since public life, for him, seemed to be contrary to real life and how he preferred to live. Great book.
Arbaz Khan
Upon finishing this book, Halliday's through line within the novel is human nature's clash between, as Jefferson put it best a, "dialogue between my head and my heart,".
An unconventional biography of Jefferson that uses particular stories and writings to illuminate Jefferson's character. It skips a lot of the Virginian's biography in favor of trying to get inside Jefferson's mind. A very different kind of biography, and very opinionated -- Halliday uses a lot of conjecture about what Jefferson could have been thinking when he did certain things, and lingers a lot on Jefferson's sexuality and relationship with Sally Hemmings. If you're looking for an exhaustive ...more
Amanda J
A quick-paced biography of Thomas Jefferson. Easy to read, which makes it enjoyable. Critics argue that this book focuses too much on pyschosexual analysis, and while the author does explore Jefferson's relationship with Sally Hemmings to a greater degree than he examines other areas of his life, I still think this is a good introduction into Jefferson's life.
This book did help me understand Thomas Jefferson better, but I was hoping for more information about his interest in horticulture. The information discussed, however, will help me in my quest to learn more about American history.
Had good information about Jefferson's plantation life, and personal relationships. Thought Halliday made some leaps in logic, proclaiming Jefferson "must have" thought, did things that he sort of reports as fact but they aren't facts.
Brandon Nelson
Halliday argued that Thomas Jefferson is not really an enigma, as other historians have suggested. This book is an essential addition to the library of anyone seriously interested in this monumental figure in American history.
Ed Smiley
The point of this book was to hypothesize a three dimensional and plausible Jefferson. As a result, much of the book is speculative, but the basis for what it deems the most probable assertion is pretty clearly spelled out.
David Ziff
Not a detailled political history but rather an attempt to look at the paradoxes that the man presents. More of a book written around ideas than the fact driven history that I learned in the 50's and 60's in school.
I really liked this one. I'm really interested in Thomas Jefferson and the author made things really easy to understand and made you felt like you were right there at his side watching his life unfold.
Sean Chick
A strangely shallow and disorganized book. It seems more interested in Jefferson's love life than anything else. The result is curiosity hemmed in by limp prose. The insights contained are scattered.
An interesting perspective on a complicated, fascinating and hypocritical (in my opinion) man. The author did seem a bit hung up on the sexual side of Jefferson though.
Jun 12, 2008 Ed rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who appreciate life, liberty and/or the pursuit of happiness
Not a biography, not an attempt at a balanced portrait...but interesting nonetheless in exploring the fascinating character of one of America's true geniuses.
Makes me understand Jefferson, understand he was a racist, extremist that would probably live in Montana today. In a bunker. With 5 wives.
April Sandmeyer
I enjoyed working for E.M. Halliday, loved him dearly, miss him so much, and will never forget him!~April Sandmeyer
This book never really got a good flow to it. Struggled to keep my focus as I was reading it.
A bit too much conjecture for me, and quite the emphasis on his libido...
Michelle Jesky
I liked learning more about Thomas Jefferson. He was a complex guy!
m. soria
oh yeah, TJ is my homeboy!
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