In this rich and engrossing account, John and Abigail Adams come to life against the backdrop of the Republic’s tenuous early years.
Drawing on over 1,200 letters exchanged between the couple, Ellis tells a story both personal and panoramic. We learn about the many years Abigail and John spent apart as John’s political career sent him first to Philadelphia, then to Paris and Amsterdam; their relationship with their children; and Abigail’s role as John’s closest and most valued advisor. Exquisitely researched and beautifully written, First Family is both a revealing portrait of a marriage and a unique study of America’s early years.
“Written with the grace and style one expects from Ellis. . . . John Adams could not have a better biographer.” —The Los Angeles Times
“Authoritative. . . . Ellis employs his narrative gifts to draw a remarkably intimate portrait of John and Abigail’s marriage as it played out against the momentous events that marked the birth of a nation.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“A brilliant book. . . . Provocatively interpretive, carefully researched, and gracefully written.” —Providence Journal
“Ellis has made himself into a sort of bard of our early Republic, and First Family is a fitting addition to his repertoire.” —The Miami Herald
“A stirring portrait of a marriage. First Family reminds us that in certain presidencies (FDR and Clinton spring to mind), there is no closer adviser than a brilliant spouse, improving the thoughts of her husband, often before he has even conceived them.” —The Boston Globe
“Engaging. . . . Ellis does a marvelous job of capturing Abigail and John at their boldest and most vulnerable. . . . He possesses a rare understanding of human nature. In First Family, he has given us the story of a marriage worth emulating and, not least, a subtle reflection on ‘the perils of parenting.’” —Chicago Tribune
“Richly detailed. . . . Erudite as well as eloquent, First Family proves that bedfellows can make superior politics.” —Richmond Times-Dispatch
“Ellis dips into the rich pool of the couple’s letters to each other . . . to show how inextricably linked the Adams presidency and the Adams marriage were. . . . He enables his readers to make fresh judgments about the second president’s tenure.” —The Dallas Morning News
“First Family invites you into a sustaining marriage that survives revolution, personal tragedies and the vicious politics of the moment. . . . Valuable reading.” —Newsday
“Ellis’s supple prose and keen psychological insight give a vivid sense of the human drama behind history’s upheavals.” —Publishers Weekly
“The author’s fluid style penetrates a correspondence studded with classical references, political dish, felicitous turns of phrases and unvarnished pleadings of affection and anxiety. America’s first power couple enjoyed, teased and rescued each other during 54 years of marriage.” —The Star-Ledger (Newark)
“Ellis is that rare professional historian who can eloquently convey both information and insight with remarkable clarity. . . . He has once again given us a consistently engaging dual biography and love story as well as an insightful exploration of early American history.” —Bookpage
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Joseph J. Ellis won the Pulitzer Prize for Founding Brothers. His portrait of Thomas Jefferson, American Sphinx, won the National Book Award. He is the Ford Foundation Professor of History at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, where he lives with his wife and their youngest son.