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First Family: Abigail and John Adams

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  6,208 ratings  ·  343 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 pers
Hardcover, 299 pages
Published October 26th 2010 by Knopf Publishing Group (first published January 1st 2010)
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4.01  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,208 ratings  ·  343 reviews

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Mar 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Jamie Collins
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
Dec 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, read-in-2010
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,
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
Jun 28, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 06, 2013 rated it really liked it

“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.

Aug 09, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Beverlee Jobrack
Oct 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I've been reading biographies of the Presidents in order. I am working on Martin Van Buren, but took time to go back and read this book. Abigail and John Adams correspondence concerned the events that framed the Revolution, writing of the Constitution, and the founding of the country. It is so interesting to read about these events through the eyes of Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, Madison, Monroe, John Quincy Adams, and Andrew Jackson and then step back and review them. I have recognized that ...more
Chris Jarvis
Mar 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
The first part of the book was sluggish for me, probably more because Mr.Adams’ work overseas was less interesting for me than what was accomplished on American soil. After that, it became a faster read and I was grateful for Mrs. Adams’ perspective on the many facets of her life and that of her family. But throughout the book, my interest was always held to how the personalities of other prominent historical men came alive in these pages as well. A very good read!
Dec 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
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
Apr 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
It seemed appropriate to finish this book the day of Barbara Bush’s funeral—the only other women to have a husband and a son serve as U.S. president. There were some interesting tidbits here about John, Abigail, their family, and their influence on American history. It was similar to other books I’ve read recently. Although obviously a unique and important time, this book made me think about the similarities in politics and history over time. There are always different ideas, players, motives, a ...more
J.S. Green
Mar 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Miles Mathews
Nov 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
John Daly
May 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Book 5 of 40 for 2016

John and Abigail Adams are the original American power couple. Their 54 year marriage and partnership is something we should all strive for. Abigail Adams was an outlier in her generation a woman encouraged by her father and grandfather to read and participate in intellectual discussions though now common place was anything but for women in her generation. And she needed all that intellectual encouragement to take on the challenge of being married to John Adams.

This great re
Nov 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, history
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
Apr 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Janet Wilcox
Oct 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
May 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I love the books of Joseph Ellis and this one did not disappoint me. I've read a couple of biographies of John Adams and this read more like an historical novel rather than a biography. Of course it helps that half of the subject matter is John Adams' better half, Abigail. She's definitely one of the first feminists. Her partnership with her husband would be incredible at any time but was truly amazing in the 1700s.

John Adams political career has of course been well documented. What makes this
Feb 27, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: historical-novel
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
Jan 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
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
Alex Templeton
Jan 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 19, 2011 rated it liked it
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.
Mar 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
Mark Fallon
Jun 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
An enjoyable biography of Abigail and John Adams. In the pantheon of our revolutionary leaders, the Adamses - and the importance of their marriage, love affair and partnership - are underrated. Relying heavily on personal correspondence between Abigail and John, as well as letters to friends and other public figures, Ellis chronicles their trials and successes, public and personal.
Oct 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Abigail Adams ! The best.
Feb 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Interesting read. The amount of time that John and Abigail had to spent apart is almost tragic, but it's given us such a wonderful view into their thoughts and lives.
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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.
“They recognized from the beginning that they were a rare match. There were so many topics they could talk about easily and just as many things they did not have to talk about at all.” 1 likes
“In psychological terms, he was neurotic and she was uncommonly sane. His inevitable eruptions would not threaten the marriage, because she was the center who would always hold.” 1 likes
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