Sally Hemings
Barbara Chase-Riboud
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Sally Hemings

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  527 ratings  ·  61 reviews
Bringing to life one of the greatest and most controversial love stories, this fictional account reveals the beautiful and elusive Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson's mistress for 38 years whom he loved and lived with until he died. Adding to the scandal, she was a quadroon slave and Jefferson fathered a slave family whose descendants are alive today. In this novel, Jefferso...more
ebook, 384 pages
Published April 1st 2009 by Chicago Review Press (first published November 30th 1977)
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This is a historical novel, very well researched and based on actual events. This book was the most tragic of love stories and an excellent depiction of the life and times of the Jefferson Administration.

I felt very connected to Miss Hemmings but I can't imagine choosing to remain enslaved, even to stay with the man I loved. To watch her children "walk off" the plantation and go on to live as White Americans must have wrenched her heart, knowing that she could never see them again, lest it be re...more
An incredible novel, and the best example I have yet encountered of the historical fiction genre, or "faction". The author grounded as much of her work as possible in primary source documents (sources disclosed at the end of the work) and filled in with imagination what remains unknown in the historical record. The fact that this work was conceived more than 20 years before DNA tests virtually confirmed the premise that this book is written on (that Thomas Jefferson had a long term sexual relati...more
Lisa James
I have always been interested in Jefferson as a person, not as much as a President, although that may sound strange. He was conflicted, as evidenced in his stand on slavery, being against it in principle, yet unable to divest himself of the ones he had. The story of Sally's life, as told here, even though a work of fiction, does play on the known facts of her life, & could almost BE biographical in nature. I was glad to see all of the rumors finally put to rest by DNA evidence that revealed...more
Just couldn't get into it. It's so full of historical opinions, perspectives, and personal thoughts that seemed false to me.
I really liked this book, I put it on the top of my list to read because this is a topic unheard of to me, especially in school. The book is written in current time of Sally in her forties with numerous flashbacks of her life. It really gives everyone's perspective, Sally as a slave as a woman as mixed race woman. Sally's two sons, and Thomas Jefferson's. Though it was a difficult read due to the style of writing but it really gives a point of view of the times leading up to and around her relat...more
Patsy Chastang
Historical Fiction - This is a story about Sally Hemings who was one of one of Thomas Jefferson's slaves who lives in the slave quarters. At this time Thomas Jefferson was already our President.. .I put historical fiction due to much reached has been done in numerous library, with families, and friends but there were a few blanks that was left out and couldn't find answers to so a line or two of fiction was inserted to keep the book flowing Sally and President Thomas Jefferson were together for...more
This was an interesting read about Sally Hemmings, however it is fictional with the use of primary documents. The story the author has created is wonderful because its fitting to the primary documents she used. I found out new things about this antebellum period. For instance in Virginia I didn't know that runaway slaves traveled with Indian tribes northward to reach freedom. It was interesting how the author formed each character as well as there interactions with Sally. The book begins at the...more
Cee Martinez
July 4th of this year found me seperated from fireworks and backyard barbecue, alone and in my livingroom with the laptop, and a History Channel marathon of The American Revolution. While running wild on Twitter and Facebook, I got to know better the editor of the brilliant new ezine, Specter Magazine, a Mr. Thomas D. DeMary II. I don't recall the exact details of the twit-conversation any longer, but the end result was that he had to pony up and buy me a book of my choosing off

CJ Bro
Interesting fictional presentation of a very complicated relationship. However, although Barbara Chase-Riboud is a capable and thorough researcher and clearly did her homework, still, the operative word here is "fictional." I don't doubt the relationship between Jefferson and Hemings existed, but the danger when doing a work of historical fiction is in the taking of too many liberties and making too many assumptions. Chase-Riboud is, in my opinion, far too much in Sally Hemings's head given the...more
Quoting Voltaire, BCR says, "There is no History, only fictions of various degrees of plausibility." She goes on to say, "For history is nothing more than the human adventure as told by fallible humans, with all their prejudices and physchoses and visions, to the society which they serve," (p353-354). How aptly put. There has been much controversy over this suspected truth. Primary sources and DNA lend credence to the theory that Sally Hemings and TJ had a long standing relationship and several...more
I became interested in Sally Hemings after seeing the television version of her romance with Thomas Jefferson. I had read bits and pieces of it prior to that. The book is fictional, based on some historical information that points to a "relationship" -- if you can call it that. Personally when it's between slave and master I call it rape. It's worth noting there was a scuttlebut about his DNA back in 2000. Inital results showed he only fathered one child. However, I did some googling recently an...more
I believed it. In Virginia, the book was dismissed as fantasy when it came out. Whenever I discussed it with friends, they did not believe Thomas Jefferson would possibly have anlong affair with Sally. I believe that she was Thomas Jefferson's deceased wife's half sister. I am not definate on that but they were related.
Lisa Kelsey
A little rough going in the beginning, well-written but not spectacular and the structure isn't perfect, but definitely worth reading because it is so insightful. Really brings home the "banal evil" of slavery and has given me a better understanding of the south. Interestingly, I don't think it was particularly insightful into Jefferson's character, but that perhaps was not the intent of the author.

One of the interesting historical details is the inclusion of the George Sweeney murder trail. Sw...more
As a fan of historical fiction I did enjoy this book, and the author made it into a very believable story depicting the depth of misery which was inflicted on early American black slaves. Their lack of freedom to live their own lives was despicable. The main story, of course, was that of Sally Hemings and her relationship to our third president, Thomas Jefferson. It was a good read, and while we do know from history that Jefferson owned many slaves and DNA evidence has shown that he fathered at...more
I did enjoy this book, but I think if someone took out all the paragraphs dedicated to the description of eyes and eye color the book would be about 10 pages long.
The historical portion of this is very interesting. I read this so long ago so don't remember all but do remember I liked a lot
I'm a nerdy history buff and a student of Southern US storytelling so I come from a patently weird place when I read historical fiction of the South (which has always been a patently weird world). For better or worse, the history of the south - and particularly the history of the creation of the US and the horrors of slavery - is ripe with amazing stories. As a point of pride Southerners of all colors do not hide their passions, follies, heroics or cruelties. Such a life approach is good fodder...more
Jeniece Lusk
I love anything about: (1) Sally Hemings, (2) Thomas Jefferson, and (3) Monticello. Maybe it's my Virginia roots, maybe it's the mystery of it all, but this rendition of the saga is one of the best historical fiction pieces on the family since I read "Wolf by the Ears" as a girl in elementary school. This book not only has believable narration, but is written with felicity and historical accuracy. I felt like I was getting a history lesson as I read it--and found myself Googling events, individu...more
Well, as I have said before, I love a book that makes me want to read more about the subject and or people in a book! Sally Hemmings did just that! Even though this book is very long and I felt like it took me a very long time to read it, I really found it very interesting and thought provoking. I want to read more about this time period and slavery in general. I have read several books about Abraham Lincoln, but this is my first book that goes farther back in time to a another presidents era. I...more
Much of the storyline is either conjecture or pure fabrication on the author's part, given that little is known about the relationship between Jefferson and Sally Hemings. Having said that, however, the plot is perfectly believable and infinitely thought-provoking. The bizarre and horrific relationship between slave and master, particularly the perversity of one based in affection, was adroitly handled. The only thing I found awkward was the constant shifting between first and third person narra...more
While I enjoyed Chase-Riboud's interpretation of the Hemings/Jefferson affair, I disliked how passive Sally was. Her stance was very, "I am beautiful, I am mulatto; therefore, I am here for Jefferson's pleasure." Jefferson doesn't strike me as a creeper, a la Dr. Flint in "Incidents of a Slave Girl," so this account leaves me to wonder how things would have turned out if at 15, she refused his advances. Or even if she had decided to stay in France. Some say it was love, but love isn't a one-way...more
 Barb Bailey
Historical novel about Sally Hemings, Thomas Jeffersons' mistress and slave. She was a Quadroon, and taken as his mistress in Paris when she was about 15 years old. He was in his early 40s at the the time. His wife Martha was already deceased. Sally accompanied his daugther Polly to France . They both girls were educated there. Then returned to Va ......where Sally remained his mistress until his death. She had 7 children by Jefferson. He did not give her freedom until after his death.
A book club assignment. And probably a three and a half rating, closer to four. But still.
Having read the meticulously researched and footnoted non-fiction book, The Hemings of Monticello, by Annette Gordon Reed, this book pales. No one will ever know how Sally and TJ felt about each other or their relationship.
Parenthetically, I would love a novel based on the adventures of Sally's children who left Virginia to make their way in world as whites.
Having studied Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson in a class, I was intrigued enough by the the subject to pick up this book and read it. While it held true to the historical facts for the most part, there were some parts that were inaccurate which made the book harder for me to enjoy. If you know little about the actual story, I would recommend this book but it just isn't for someone who has done research on the time period and subject matter.
This was one of the early books that Jackie O edited. The book was too long, and the way it jumped back in forth in time got annoying. Though told mostly from Sally's perspective, her love of Thomas Jefferson, who was about 30 years older, was not explained well. I didn't feel like I understood why she loved him enough to stay in slavery when she had the choice to become free in Paris. The whole book was just kind of odd.
This is too romanticized for me. Major ick factors involved especially since Sally was only 15 at the time of her first liason with Jefferson. How do we know that it was a true love relationship and not that Sally felt coerced into submitting to her master's will? DNA evidence still hasn't proven that Jefferson was the father of all her children, so how do we know that Hemings and Jefferson's first child was a love child?
Laura McCafferty
Hmmm, interesting bits of history, linked with distracting fabrications by the author. The truth about a story like this, you want to know the truth. Fictional suppositions, handled much more creatively in a book like "The Other Boleyn Girl" fall short here. Both Hemmings and Jefferson are maddening. And we don't leave this book having any sense of why they made the decisions they did.
A very beautiful story of the love affair between Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson. Of course this is probably a lot more romantic than what actually happened, there are still some very realistic qualities in this book and it captured the both of them so well. One of the best books ever written, I could feel myself in the characters. Excellent.
Kirsten Rodning
I think that this book is on an interesting topic and is very informative. Unfortunately, I think the writing style of the author needs work. I felt that some of the words and transitions that the author used were clunky and in need of revision.

Putting that aside, though, it is a very original, good book.
My favorite genre, historical fiction. The story of Thomas Jefferson's decades-long love affair with is slave, Sally Hemings. Weaves in the major historical happenings of Jefferson's life; the French Revolution, the Presidency, slave uprisings, etc. as side notes in the life of Sally and her children by Jefferson.
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An American novelist, poet, sculptor and visual artist, perhaps best known for her historical fiction. Much of her work has explored themes related to slavery and exploitation of women.

Chase-Riboud attained international recognition with the publication of her first novel, Sally Hemings, in 1979. The novel has been described as the "first full blown imagining" of Hemings' life as a slave and her r...more
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