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First Family: Abigail and John Adams

4.01 of 5 stars 4.01  ·  rating details  ·  3,184 ratings  ·  234 reviews
The Pulitzer Prize–winning, best-selling author of Founding Brothers and His Excellency brings America’s preeminent first couple to life in a moving and illuminating narrative that sweeps through the American Revolution and the republic’s tenuous early years.
John and Abigail Adams left an indelible and remarkably preserved portrait of their lives together in their personal
Hardcover, 299 pages
Published October 26th 2010 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2010)
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Before Bill and Hillary took to the White House, or Al and Tipper inspired Love Story, in a pre-Brangelina world (if one can imagine it), there was another power couple, John and Abigail Adams.
John and Abigail Adams
This is a portrait painted primarily through the letters between John and Abigail, with careful attention paid to the irony that we know the least about the times during which they were together. Luckily for us (not so much for the wife and kids), John's time was often dominated by his political duties a
Rene Saller
First, I just want to get this off my chest: I hate the Goodreads star system. Should I have given this book 4 stars instead of 3? Maybe 3.5, although that doesn't seem to be an option? Is it fair to give this book the same number of stars that I routinely assign to police procedurals without taking into account the considerable scholarship that went into it, the author's obvious familiarity with the thousands of letters that the Adamses and their circle churned out? At any rate, I learned a lot ...more
John Adams is my favorite Founding Father, not least because I dearly love the musical 1776, which I watch every year in celebration of the 4th of July. (Adams thought it was July 2nd, the date of the vote to declare independence, that would be "commemorated as the Day of Deliverance ... It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shows, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.")

This is an eas
Jenny T
I admit to a certain bias: Abigail and John Adams are my favorite historical couple. But this book sheds further light on why they worked so well together, focusing on their relationship based on their correspondence (the largest collection of letters from any presidential couple).

Abigail, brilliant, fiery, and domestic, was often left alone to run the farm and raise the children. John was often away on political business, at the mercy of his own ambitions and temperamental mood swings. Somehow,
Let me preface by saying that I am a complete newb at American History. As such this was my first journey into a detailed account of our Founding Fathers and the machinations (both domestic and foreign) that lead to the creation of the United States of America, under one Federal consistution, that we have today.
With that caveat in place I have to say I enjoyed this book very much. Unlike the more historical fictional "John Adams" books this one reads a little more academic. Its much the same sto
I thoroughly enjoyed the audio version of this book, and felt the reader did an excellent job. I appreciated the authors ability to put one back into the 1700's, and also link it to the differences of today.

One of the things I came away with is how sad it is that a beautiful language has gone the way of the dinosaur, not to mention the art of letter writing. Omg, if this generation did rite ltrs, they might not be quite so intrstg. Idk?

It was pretty incredible that Mr. Adam's had so much foresi
Miles Mathews
Joseph J. Ellis' book "First Family: Abigail and John Adams" is a fine tribute to that extraordinary couple and a pleasure to read! As the title suggests, the book is about the family as well as the President and First Lady themselves. Whether you are already a student of the Adams Family or a seasoned and veteran reader about the couple, Ellis's book provides plenty of material on which to ponder, and his analysis of the sources and reasoned speculation in the absence of them are superior.

As i
Joseph Ellis has an amazing talent for introducing readers to the great figures of the American Revolution. He makes you feel as though you've lived in their homes, eaten family dinners with them, and become close friends. And perhaps none of his books do that so well as First Family: Abigail and John Adams.

In contrast to the reserved and aloof George and Martha Washington, John and Abigail Adams left a small mountain of correspondence that bridge not only the time they spent apart but an ocean
Janet Wilcox
Probably the best biography I've come across. Both John and Abigail Adams are singular in American History because of the volume of correspondence which they wrote and kept over the span of 40 plus years. Their insights about the Revolutionary era-(as well as both pre and post) and their well-chosen words make each letter a sparkling gem, putting the current generations' use of gangster talk and text lingo to shame.
Ellis as a researcher writer kept his objectivity throughout the book, both prai

“First Family: Abigail & John Adams” is the most recent of nearly a dozen books by Joseph J. Ellis. Mr. Ellis is a Professor of History at Mount Holyoke and has written extensively on the revolutionary era and some of its most prominent figures. ”First Family” is the last of a seven books in my library on John Adams, and is the only one whose focus is not principally on the former president, but on both John and his exceptional wife Abigail.

This book offers a fascinating look into the lives, ambitions, and marriage of one of the foremost families of the Revolution era. I found it to be particularly fascinating because it isn't just a re-telling of their life - it offered a sort of "behind-the-scenes" look into their thoughts, attitudes, and motives through use of their copious amounts of letters and journals. As the reader, you aren't just walking through the events of their life, you're journeying into their heart. I also found th ...more
1776, a musical film which celebrates the Declaration of Independence, is an absolutely delightful movie, as funny as it is inspiring. But increasingly I enjoy it for the tender way it portrays the relationship between John Adams and his distant wife, Abigail. Committed whole-heartedly to the Revolution, Adams is its most ardent advocate. He struggles throughout the film against the cautious conservatism of his fellow congressmen, and even his marginal successes seem ruined by the compromises th ...more
Well. This is NOT McCullough's John Adams. The book has neither the scope of McCullough's work nor quite as good writing. That said, this is a marvelous contribution to the body of recent work on the Adams family. It says something about the depth of the Adamses themselves and the material they left behind, that one can read half a dozen major books on them and still not be tired of hearing about them. I have long liked Ellis' work nearly as well as McCullough's, and I was delighted with this bo ...more
First, a note on the audiobook. The reader was a lovely choice for the book. I felt like she put a lot of personality into the words and really made the letters (written in an old-fashioned and self-conscious manner) come alive. I often notice repetitions on audio more than when reading, and this was true of this book, but it didn't take away from my enjoyment of the experience.

This really is a story of a marriage, rather than the story of a Founding Father or early-American politics--though tho
Alex Nath
Were I to sum up Joseph J. Ellis' 'First Family' in two words, they would be "nothing new". Any student of or expert on American history, amateur or otherwise, will have heard the vast majority of this story. The John and Abigail Adams story has already been told, much more thoroughly, by David McCullough.

The introduction of First Family sets the goal of telling major stories of the Revolutionary era through the eyes of the first power couple in American history. The events highlighted in this b
I have to say I am proud of myself for just finishing this one! It was very interesting, but written with a vocabulary a degree or two above my own. I love learning about John and Abagail Adams. They had a truly remarkable relationship in any age, much less in the colonial era. And as much of the text was taken from letters written to friends, family, and each other, their story is told in their own words. Another thing I love about the records the Adams's kept was that they did not hide their q ...more
i have to admit I was a little disappointed in Ellis' latest book about the Revolutionary Generation. I've read David McCullough's John Adams and Cokie Roberts' "Founding Mothers" and "Ladies of Liberty", and I found Ellis'depiction of the couple to be a bit different than what I had read. Frankly, I feel he doesn't give Abigail much credit. I left this book with the impression that she really pined for John when he was gone, as if she could barely function--and that doesn't match with what I've ...more
Alex Templeton
This was a very readable portrait of a marriage and an era in American history. I think the idea of framing a period of history through the lens of one person (or, in this case, family) is a good one. It makes it personal and engaging; indeed, I wonder what it would be like if students learned about history through stories of real people instead of textbooks. But that’s a thought to discuss with my American-history teacher husband! I don’t know if I’d necessarily recommend this book if you’re no ...more
Steven Peterson
A very fine work. This book focuses on Abigail and John Adams, and traces their lives together. In the process, we come also to learn about other leaders of the time from the Adams' perspective. John and Abigail were parents of four children, three of whom led rather tragic lives. One one child--John Quincy Adams--became president himself. The book examines the strains on their marriage--his service away from home in Congress or in Europe. The book speaks of John's temperamental peculiarities, w ...more
Seth Jenson
I love John and Abigail Adams. Their letters to each other were so rich, lucid, smart, loving, and astounding. They had their flaws. Especially John. I enjoy reading about that. Peeking into people's private lives makes them more real, more approachable. And it gives me hope.

This quote from John made me laugh really really loud:

"Let it once be revealed or demonstrated that there is no future state, and my advice to every man, woman, and child would be, as our existence would be in our own powe
Feb 14, 2015 Megan rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Megan by: Lacey Christensen
2.75 stars. Boring and very hard to get through, but I love the subject matter.
Let me first state that John Adams is one of my top favorite founding fathers. I also REALLY loved the David McCullough book about John Adams.
This book, however, felt like a slog to get through. I really had to push myself to finish it; I was just not engagaged at all. I kept counting up the hours I had left to finish the book--I was ready for it to be over after the first third.
Listened as an audio book.
This version
The more I read about John and Abigail the more I am amazed. Their relationship is beautiful and inspiring. Their efforts on behalf of the revolution and flegdling US are incredible. The friendship between Adams and Jefferson, and the way they overcame some serious issues [Jefferson was awful to John] is astounding. At approximately 250 pages this book is a great quick read for someone that wants to learn about John and Abigail. For an amazing read try David McCullough's John Adams.
If you've read Revolutionary Era bios and histories, there is still new ground to tread in this book. It is the story of a husband-wife partnership unequaled among presidents until FDR & Eleanor, though Bill and & Hillary might be a more apt comparison in some ways. Joseph Ellis again hits the mark with his subject. If you've read McCullough's Adams bio, you already have a basis for going further with this one. I recommend you do so.
I did it! That's another one down on my quest to read a biography of all the US Presidents.

While I found Joseph Ellis's book about George Washington to be a real struggle to get through, I actually mostly enjoyed this one about John Adams. Initially, I had attempted to read the text of John and Abigail's lengthy correspondence, but found it too dated and dull to get through. First Family is basically a Cliff's Notes version of the letters. Ellis does use some creative license to fill in the gaps
How wise was John Adams to know that his letters and diaries would end up being used as history. Or perhaps it was someone who wanted to make sure history was recorded his way.

They were the ultimate power couple. It was a joy to read Abigail’s views of the European women and their values. She was quite the formidable woman managing the family, the farm and politics. It did amuse me that when opinions were not in John’s favor, Abigail was still held in high esteem.

This is how I prefer my histor
I gained an appreciation for how little politics has changed. Fighting, back-stabbing and duplicitous personalities did not develop with the Republicans and Democrats. Politics is not the focus of the book thought how could you escape the inevitable when John Adams is the focus? The marriage of John and Abigail is charming. They really loved one another and suffered separations in the name of his career. Despite distance, illness and problems with children, they remained in love and committed to ...more
Incredibly interesting narrative. What a pair! As for the audio, for once, I have no complaints. The narrator was excellent.
Dell Taylor
My actual rating: 3.5. This is a fascinating look at John and Abigail Adams. They really had a remarkable relationship for the times -- she being truly an equal partner. She had an astute mind and a keen interest in politics. She would have made a great politician, but she was ahead of her time. It seems as though she was the one helping John keep a lid on his demons. They really did have a lot of hardships to weather -- they saw 3 of their 5 children die -- two under very sad circumstances. The ...more
Oh how I wish I could read, write, think and speak like Mr. and Mrs. Adams! I am so thankful that their letters have been preserved and give us a glimpse into each individual, their marriage, their relationships and beyond that into the intriguing world in which they were major players! The author said it best at the end of the book that no other couple from that generation did a better job cataloging so many aspects of our nation’s birth and infancy. The book was rich with wonderful letters and ...more
I very much enjoyed this book and give it closer to a 4.5 rating. I love reading about John and Abigail Adams and their family and this book was obviously all about their personal and public lives. There was nothing new in this book in terms of the role the Adams family played in the Revolutionary Period, but I loved the sections on their marriage, parenting, friendships, and all other aspects of their personal relationships. I think Ellis was fair in his evaluations of their personal and politi ...more
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Joseph J. Ellis, a professor of history at Mount Holyoke College, is a nationally recognized scholar of American history from colonial times through the early decades of the Republic. The author of seven books, he is recipient of the National Book Award in Nonfiction for American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson and the Pulitzer Prize for Founding Brothers. He lives in Massachusetts.
More about Joseph J. Ellis...
Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation His Excellency: George Washington American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence

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