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Abigail and John: Portrait of a Marriage

4.06  ·  Rating Details ·  1,047 Ratings  ·  88 Reviews
“Fascinating...Gelles has provided a balanced portrait, and her mastery of the period’s issues and history is evident on every page. Her treatment of the family... [is] written with understanding and sensitivity... But it is her strength as a feminist historian that makes her treatment of Abigail the most gripping... masterful and captivating.”
Washington Times

“A landmar
Paperback, Large Print, 660 pages
Published May 19th 2009 by HarperLuxe (first published March 1st 2009)
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Kirsten *I support diversity in my reading and my world!"
Women rarely feature in American revolutionary history but Abigail Adams is a wonderful exception. It is thanks to the immense letter and journal writing habits of the Adamses that we know so much of the events of revolutionary America and the early setting of the government.

Unlike many marriages of the time, theirs was a love match. And it is thanks to Abigail's parents who encouraged the education of their daughters and her husband John's progressive attitudes, that Abigail was allowed to be m
Apr 16, 2012 Deirdre rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this over quite some time but I really enjoyed it. The subtitle reads, "A Portrait of a Marriage" and Gelles gives the reader a wonderful picture of a marriage to admire, one based on deep and abiding mutual respect and adoration and duty to a common purpose -- raising a good family and serving (even building) the nation. Abigail and John were so devoted and in love with one another throughout their marriage. That they were able to support and nurture each other, their family and the coun ...more
Sep 24, 2009 April rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I really enjoyed this. I've read biographies of both John & Abigail Adams, but this book shed new light on not only their relationship with each other but also their relationships with their children and what they were going through. There was a lot of new information from letters that they wrote to each other and their friends that I hadn't read before. It puts a different perspective on things. They definitely had an amazing relationship and marriage.

The only thing that I didn't like was
Jul 07, 2014 Megowen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I enjoyed reading this. Abigail and John have been of interest to me since 1976 and the PBS series "The Adams Chronicles." This book was what I like to call "easy" history. The facts are there, but not in a heavily academic way. There was, for me, a lot of new information on Abigail's life without John while he was serving in both Philadelphia and Europe. Their separation was long. Her endeavors, and how she maintained the family, were fascinating. Yet, despite all her hard work for the economic ...more
Dec 28, 2009 Ron rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, biography
A good history and biography, replete with primary sources--mostly letters from and to the principles.

Two factors mar the text: first, Gelles practice of explaining that which need no explaining, often the archaic vocabulary. And second, paradoxically, Gelles own archaic vocabulary. For example, we might expect the Adamses to use "palliate" as a verb, but hardly expect to find it in twenty-first century prose.

Cover art: particularly liked the juxtaposing of parts of the two Gilbert portraits.
Mar 06, 2010 Cindy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Abigail Adams is a new hero of mine. She was a faithful wife, a faithful citizen, and a determined woman. With struggle after struggle, she faced many hardships without her husband, and received little credit.

Honestly, I didn't finish this book on time for my book club, because the end was boring.
Mar 22, 2010 Kathryn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was based on the letters Abigail and John Adams wrote to each other. Most of their married life was spent apart, due to John's political activities, so there were many letters to base the book on. I found it very interesting in depicting life in the US at the beginning of our country, and the sacrifices our founders made to make the union work.
Amanda Cain
Apr 18, 2013 Amanda Cain rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
My least favorite bio of the Adams family. The author came at their family with a warped, staunchly feministic worldview, and pretty much twisted their life and letters into pretzels trying to fit them into her revisionist mold. Would not recommend!
Nov 12, 2011 Paula rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For years, I've heard people talk about the letters exchanged between John and Abigail and their level of intimacy. I finally took time to investigate and read. This book is quite and lengthy experience. We learn of the early days and their family background. We follow them through courtship and marriage. Over the years, we see the personal details of their lives laid before us, in spite of their often referenced desire to have their letters destroyed, neither one did it.

We can see their joys an
Jan 14, 2012 ☯Emily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, biography
Abigail and John Adams are a well-known eighteenth century couple. Many books have been written about each of them. This book looks at the marriage of the couple and how it survived long separations, hardships, problems with their children and their spouses, political treachery and betrayal of close friends and associates. Both Abigail and John were prolific letter writers and their thoughts about their marriage and love for each other, problems with their friends and family, and the politics su ...more
Absolutely LOVED it. For the quality of research and depth of discussion, this book is very easy to read and quite enjoyable. I'm amazed at the information I learned about this couple and the events they took part in in such a short time span. The author did a fantastic job explaining and connecting events and the Adam's thoughts, feelings, and opinions together in a way that not only paints them as human, but as the amazing, loving, passionate individuals they were. I now know more about the Re ...more
Jul 29, 2010 Erin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A compelling and interesting glimpse into the lives of John and Abigail Adams. Edith B. Gelles has written a book that is anything but dry history, offering everyday details of their lives and times, and educated commentary on their communication. They were apart for the better part of 10 years during the early part of their marriage and yet continued to support and love, even adore one another in spite of the difficult circumstances. They wrote so many letters to each other during this time and ...more
Jun 23, 2015 Megan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Abigail Adams has long interested me. She was far ahead of her times in her interest in abolishing slavery and rights for women. The relationship of John and Abigail has also interested me because they seemed to genuinly love eachother and were able to strengthen the other in difficult times. So I was very excited when I saw this book. I love that it is a dual biography so you are able to better understand both of their stories. It is truly inspiring to read everything they sacrificed for their ...more
Dec 23, 2011 Georgiana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Abigail and John had a marvelous relationship in spite of long separations due to their mutual respect. Although this book was written to highlight their marriage, you will find the relevance to today's politics astounding...such as the terrorist threat and the government's reaction (Alien and Sedition Act), the country's financial instability, the differing political factions,the protesters etc. Our country is rather like an adolescent who refuses to learn from wiser parents. The truth is we do ...more
Abigail is one of my favorite women from history! I'm reading this to learn more about the real Abigail, as my most vivid knowledge of her is actually the image of her fictinal counterpart in the musical "1776".

This biography of their marriage shows that the bond between John and Abigail was one of love, passion, and mutual support. Gelles is not that graceful a writer; the book is somewhat academic in tone. However, it is very readable and worth the time to get to know how Abigail and John mad
I liked this book because I find this time period and the Adamses so fascinating. It was well researched, but I didn't think the book was particularly well written, especially for someone who is so proud of her degrees from Cornell and Yale.

I also wouldn't say that the book was all that focused on the marriage of Abigail and John. I understand that the book needed to include some context of what is going on in John and Abigail's friends' and children's lives, but I found these contextual rambli
Jul 09, 2009 Rae rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bio-memoir
I thoroughly enjoyed this double biography of Abigail and John Adams. I was impressed by their relationship (54 years), their service to the country, their love of family, and their feelings about education.

Sometimes I think we should get back to that seemingly old-fashioned "service to country" as a duty business. It would be an asset for our country's future.

I especially enjoyed reading this book in the month of July.
Jun 12, 2013 Al rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent portrait of the marriage of Abigail and John Adams that endured for more than fifty years. The author focuses on their relationship which began prior to the Revolutionary War and lasted into the early 19th century and the presidency of Thomas Jefferson. I have read several biographies of John Adams but this book provides additional insights based upon the voluminous correspondence between Abigail and John during their frequent periods of physical separation.
Apr 03, 2013 Michele rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this joint biography of the second president, John Adams, and his wife, Abigail. The author used letters written by each of the Adamses and constructed her biography through the letters. It was almost like reading an autobiography. The story flowed easily and was quite interesting. It was not encumbered by too much detail as far as dates, names, etc. Yet, it gave a good synopsis of American history as it occurred in their lifetimes.
Sep 03, 2010 Rachel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This author focused on the Adamses' marriage, particularly their correspondence. At one point, John had to be in Europe without Abigail for 4 years. It is refreshing to read about a couple so dedicated to each other that nothing can sever their relationship. I learned a LOT about the Adams family that I did not know before.
Jul 12, 2010 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was very interesting and I learned a lot of new things. I truly came to like and admire Abigail and I will admit that I am grateful that I am a woman now and not then. It took me a little while to get into the style of the author but once I got going it wasn't bad. Overall I would say that I enjoyed it.
Jan 25, 2010 Erin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I liked using the format of a dual biography to study John & Abigail's lives, as it seemed to bring out insights about their character and motivations, and showed how personal and political often influenced each other. They were fascinating people, and I'm grateful for the sacrifices they made in doing what they felt was right.
Dec 06, 2010 Benjamin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are a slew of biographies out there that focus on John and Abigail Adams. This one focuses on their marriage and relationship throughout the various decades and how their public and private lives affected one another.
Sep 02, 2012 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

It's taking me some time to read this book, but it is very interesting to read a love story play out in such a different and unique time period. It is a view of the revolutionary era that I did not previously have; superbly researched and written.
Abby Ward
This book was an easy read, especially if you are already familiar with John and Abigail Adams. I did not find it particularly well written, though. The author wrote very simplistically and sometimes had disjointed ideas.
Aug 06, 2009 Carolyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well-written narrative interspersed with the couple's letters. I liked that the author followed each letter or exchange with a modern interpretation of the 18th century language. Abigail's experiences put my occasional bouts of bws (bitter wife syndrome) to shame!
Feb 16, 2013 Erin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a great read. It was also a huge reminder of how far away we are from the ideals and beliefs our country was founded on. Wonder what John Adams would think of America today....
Leah (packfan20)
I will start off by saying John Adams is WAY more interesting than George Washington. Sorry, George.

The only reason I chose this book for my presidential challenge was because I already had it on my Kindle and didn't have to fight library due dates to finish it. I was happy I did.

I knew nothing about John & Abigail Adams so I was completely fascinated by every aspect of their relationship. You know darn well that a woman these days would have dropped a husband who lives overseas for 8 years
This is a fresh and intriguing approach to a typical biography. By relying on the letters exchanged between John and Abigail Adams during their long marriage, Gelles brings a softer and more humane approach to the resurrection of two historical characters whose unique and evolving bond is both eerily modern and entirely representative of the slice of history the inhabited. It's a fast read, and Gelles' narrative voice remains consistent and coherent throughout her work, lending it an easily comp ...more
Mar 10, 2012 Emilee rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fairly informative read, and definitely interesting. Though, I feel a bit of a bias towards certain historical figures within the novel. Gelles certainly glazed over Jefferson's vicious campaign against Adams during his second run for presidency. More like a little blurb that just barely mentioned it. Hamilton got fairly vilified as a schemer and a liar. While the focus is certainly on Adams, I felt a bit disconcerted by the author's own opinion weaving into that of the Adams'. While they migh ...more
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  • My Dearest Friend: Letters of Abigail and John Adams
  • Mr. Adams's Last Crusade: The Extraordinary Post-presidential Life of John Quincy Adams
  • Mr. Jefferson's Hammer: William Henry Harrison and the Origins of American Indian Policy
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  • John Jay: Founding Father
  • An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America
  • James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity
  • John Adams: A Life
  • First Family: Abigail and John Adams
  • Martin Van Buren: The Romantic Age of American Politics
  • The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism
  • A Perfect Union: Dolley Madison and the Creation of the American Nation
  • Patriarch: George Washington and the New American Nation
  • Mrs. Adams in Winter: A Journey in the Last Days of Napoleon

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“Adam Smith, who suggested that the “horror of poverty” lay not in hunger but in “obscurity.” Poor people suffer the indignity of being ignored. “To be wholly overlooked, and to know it, are intolerable.” And if poor people cannot look to themselves, then they must look up to another person, whom they consider a hero. Their identification with heroes provided meaning in life. In a complicated set of discourses, John argued that all men, from the highest to the lowest ranks, depend upon titles to give meaning to their existence.” 0 likes
“Let these truths…be indelibly impressed on our Minds that we cannot be happy without being free, that we cannot be free without being secure in our property, that we cannot be secure in our property if without our consent others may as by right take it away. Abigail” 0 likes
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