Nate Capone's Reviews > A Slave in the White House: Paul Jennings and the Madisons

A Slave in the White House by Elizabeth Dowling Taylor
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Mar 18, 12

bookshelves: 2012, non-fiction, autobiography-biography-memoir, do-not-own, history
Read from March 17 to 19, 2012

I waited for this book for months from the library and was so excited when my hold finally came in. It was a book I loved before I even opened the cover.... and then I did. Ugh, what an utter disappointment. This book is perhaps the best example of why a great historian does not make a great writer.

The book is simply just a mish-mash of tons of great research. The author will often mention a handful of names, jumping years in advance and then back again, then will throw in random locations across the country; then the paragraph will be over and the next paragraph will start while having very little (or absolutely nothing) to do with the preceding paragraph. The amount of names in the first few chapters is absolutely ridiculous, it felt like over 100, whatever the exact number, it is far too many for anyone to keep track of. As you progress you realize that most of the names and random information don't matter, but how is the reader supposed to know that?

To the author's credit, there are a few charts later in the book that I didn't initially see (since one is in the middle and the other at the end), but they aren't nearly detailed enough to track everything. Still, they should help you out in figuring out who is related to whom.

Moreover, and sadly, the writing style is extremely flat. There is no rhythm or shape to it at all, and is mostly presented in the following manner: random fact, random fact, somewhat important fact, random fact-next paragraph-repeat prior structure.

Overall this book was a huge disappointment, and I hate that I disliked it. You can tell the author really worked hard and did an amazing job at researching this immense project. Unfortunately, that does not make up for the absolutely atrocious presentation of it.
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