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European Royalty Group Reads > Hemingses of Monticello: Part II - Vaunted Scene of Europe

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message 1: by Sara W (new)

Sara W (sarawesq) | 2153 comments Please discuss Part II: Vaunted Scene of Europe here.

message 2: by Sara W (new)

Sara W (sarawesq) | 2153 comments Oh, I just wanted to let people know that all the discussion topics are here, but they keep being pushed beyond the five topic limit on the main page, so you need to click "view all" to get to the rest (I think once I post this comment that will push Part III off the main page - I need to start inserting the threads in the reverse order when I list them).

I think I'm only about a chapter or two into this section, but it's really interesting to see the differences between how France and the US viewed slavery (I think Petunia made a comment similar to this). I'm really curious to see why the author thinks James and Sally Hemmings didn't decide to claim their freedom while they were there. I guess maybe Sally was too in love with Jefferson so she wanted to stick with him (I have absolutely no idea if this is true - I know nothing about their relationship since this is the first book I've read about them - I just know she ends up back in the US with him), but all I can think is that if I was James with a career and a (eventual) decent/good understanding of French, I would stay there or at least claim my freedom (although I guess if he stayed he wouldn't be with his family which would be sad, and I don't know how well the US would respect France's decision to free him if he did return). Anyway, I'm not far enough in to have gotten an answer to any of these questions yet, but these are the thoughts rolling around in my head right now. I'm just at the part where Abigail Adams is referenced, and she seems like a real intolerant piece of work! Her and her son's reactions to Othello are crazy.

message 3: by Angelica (new)

Angelica (angelica221) I had a similar reaction to Abigail and her son! Read on, it gets more interesting! This is the first book I've read on Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings. When I visited Monticello as a kid, I don't remember anything being said about her. I also don't remember hearing any of this in history class either. Good choice!

message 4: by Sara W (new)

Sara W (sarawesq) | 2153 comments This book goes hot and cold for me. I LOVE the narrative sections where the author describes what they did, who they were with, etc. and when she is describing letters or memo books or whatever. I just get a little bored and impatient with the other parts that deal with all the hypotheticals - what they might have been feeling at the time, what they might have been thinking, etc. To some degree this is interesting, but I don't want to read a book filled with a bunch of questions and then the author trying to answer those questions with her opinion. It's almost like reading two different books. She even wrote something about departing from the narrative, and all I thought was "Oh no! The narrative is what I really really like!" I don't need the lengthy discussion about what happens when heterosexual older men live unsupervised with teenage girls they aren't related to.

message 5: by Angelica (new)

Angelica (angelica221) I have found there have been times I've skimmed over some sentences to get the jist of what's going on. I'm still in Part II, hoping to get to Part III later.

message 6: by Catherine (new)

Catherine Delors (catherinedelors) | 36 comments I love this part still more than Part I (but then I am prejudiced in favor of Paris.)

True, Sara, there are a lot of "we don't know" in there. The only written records of slaves were those kept by their masters, which obviously leaves many blanks. Gordon-Reed doesn't try to fill those blanks with her own ideas, but she makes us think about what the Hemingses were thinking and doing. I like that.

I too think the Adams family comes across as pretty awful. I wonder whether they were not far more disturbed by a Black man/White woman relationship (and - gasp - marriage!) as in Othello than by a White man/Black woman out-of-wedlock relationship, which was a natural byproduct of slavery. And Othello was not only a free man, he was a man in a position of authority. Very, very shocking for Abigail Adams...

By the way, Gordon-Reed mentions in passing a character I find fascinating, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, father of the great novelist. I don't think she does justice.

I posted about him.

And I think I would have claimed my freedom in a heartbeat too!

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