The Hemmingses of Monticello is a rich and provocative study of race, family, slavery, paternalism, and history. It read like a novel only in the sense that one’s imagination fills in, or tries to, all the mind-boggling inconsistencies of Jefferson and his time in history. My brain nearly exploded in the first chapter when Annette Gordon-Reed started throwing the relationships at you like water bombs. Everyone was related, black white and mixed. All of them were connected. And yet Jefferson seemed deeply, genuinely hurt when some of his wife’s enslaved brothers wanted to be free more than they wanted all that Jefferson could and did give them. He literally couldn’t understand it. And yet he wrote passionately for the intrinsic rights of man. He had a common-law lasting relationship with Sally Hemmings and yet he truly believed that blacks were inherently inferior. The contradictions are baffling, fascinating, horrifying. The one criticism I have of this fine history is that she tends to set up straw men and knock them down one by one, and then conclude if it wasn’t any of those things, it “stands to reason” or “doubtless” was her theory. I often thought her list of possibilities was terribly limited when you consider the amazing complexity of human relations.
I’ve been reading The Book Thief for months but it’s so terribly good I can’t bear to read it for the pain and the fear of more pain to come.
Ditto with The Higher Power of Lucky. I don’t know why I keep putting that one down. It’s wonderful, wonderful.
14. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane,Katherine Howe
13. Dragon Haven, Robin Hobb
12. The Hemmingses of Monticello: An American Family, Annette Gordon-Reed
11. Bookman’s Wake, John Dunning
7-10. The Spellman Files, The Curse of the Spellmans, Revenge of the Spellmans, The Spellmans Strike Again, Lisa Lutz
6. Bardo: Interval of Possibility, Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche
5. Booked to Die, John Dunning
4. Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins
3. The Girl Who Played with Fire, Stieg Larson
2. Beautiful Creatures
1. The Silver Mage, Katherine Kerr
1-6 Rune Blade Trilogy, Sword in Exile Trilogy, Ann Marston