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

American Sphinx by Joseph J. Ellis
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's review
Feb 28, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: borrowed-library, read-in-2010
Read from February 28 to March 14, 2010

Joseph Ellis is an excellent writer. His style is almost musical in places. His work was very well-researched and was a joy to read.

Ellis took a look at some of the major turning points in the life of Thomas Jefferson, and paid special notice of how his political views sometimes seemed to be contradictory - and of the times when what he did contradicted what he said.

He really was an interesting man - a leader of the American revolution, an idealist, and an introvert with a scientific and innovative mind. He certainly faced more than his share of tragedy, too.

In Jefferson, there is much to admire and much to criticize as well. He was entirely human - a founding father, not a founding demigod. The author tried to get inside Jefferson's head, and figure out as best he could how his mind worked: how he perceived himself, the nation, and his role in its leadership, and his role in family and personal life. This was a fascinating portrait but not a dogmatic one. Ellis brings a lot of things to the surface and explains his position without entirely ramming it down your throat. After all, Jefferson was the American Sphinx - highly visible, venerated and enduring, and always enigmatic.
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