Nathan's Reviews > Thomas Jefferson: Author of America

Thomas Jefferson by Christopher Hitchens
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's review
Jul 11, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: franklin-library, history
Read from July 11 to 15, 2011

A brief overview and surprisingly dense analysis of Jefferson's Presidency. Hitchens being Hitchens, I expected the critical yet approving look at Jefferson's contrarian view of Christianity. I didn't expect such a  substantive treatment of foreign policy in such a short book. Hitchens covers the major events of American international relations quickly and adequately, though relatively little context is given.

This is not a narrative history. There is no flow or sense of story, no memorable character sketches, no stunning insights. This is a snapshot built for convenience and awkwardly striving for resonance.

As a part of a series dedicated to "eminent lives", this seems to do its job, hitting the highlights and furnishing the facts. It's not done with much flair (actually, I thought Hitchens's style stuffy and overly cerebral) or literary merit, and sometimes bites off more than it can chew in terms of making connections and seeing the larger picture. The boring style makes the material, solid, and if the book is boring, it is at least brief.

I think this is pretty optional as Jefferson biographies go; it won't stay with me or stand as an example of good writing, but it gets the job done.
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