Alisa's Reviews > American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson

American Sphinx by Joseph J. Ellis
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May 16, 10

bookshelves: history, presidents
Recommended for: US Presidential history or founding father fans.
Read from January 30 to May 15, 2010

Thomas Jefferson was a man of contradictions and embodied an unusual yet adept political style. It is one reason that makes him so curious as a historical figure and revered by those who otherwise have differing views (Pres. Reagan and Clinton come immediately to mind) The examination of Jefferson’s many contradictions are illuminating, the most obvious as it relates to slavery and Jefferson’s views of personal freedoms. Those contradictions are not fully explained (and probably are not fully explainable), but Ellis has a way of shining light on the many facets of those positions in a way that at least helps us understand Jefferson’s thinking more fully and smoothes out some of the rough spots of those inconsistent views.

Instead of using the lifetime chronology of most biographies, Ellis constructed his work around specific periods in Jefferson's life to highlight pivotal periods during his adult life. It was a smart way of providing depth on topics and times in his life while maintaining the more dominant threads, such as his relationships with other founders and his personal asset situation. It is an intense scholarly work well researched. I liked this book and recommend it particularly for those who have an interest in very early Presidential history. It’s not my favorite era (thus the somewhat lower rating), but I’m glad I read this.


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02/16/2010 page 74
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