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As interesting reading material, I’ll say that this collection of letters varied from five stars to negative -100. Since I’m not offered the amount of stars that I feel would allow me to properly and completely describe my rollercoastering level of interest, I’ll have to settle for three. Perhaps we could have a “choose your own description” for each star end? Like, “one=I’d rather chop onions for a day while being forced to listen to Its a Small World on Repeat than read /that/ letter again,” t
If nothing else, I hope the rant above at least gave you the idea that this collection of letters does give one a very complete picture of the course of John and Abigail’s relationship, from their courtship to their retirement. I was surprised in some instances by aspects of their relationship. They are always presented the same way: as a solid husband and wife team, as a case for equality in republic still dictated by lots of hypocrisy. Honestly, I think it took a long time and a lot of hard work for that to be true, and even then it was not universally so. Abigail seemed like any other young wife of her time, and innumerous are the occasions in which she either bends to John’s will, or allows him to yell at her and run roughshod over her on any number of issues. For instance- her famous “Remember the Ladies,” letter, in which she urges for female equality under the law, and female education. John made a joke out of it and laughed at it. According to the book, this pissed her off, but she didn’t say more than a word about it in her next letter, and that was the end of that. He chastises her for complaining about him not writing from Europe and yells at her for telling him about his troubles, claming that she’s only doing it to make him feel guilty, then preemptively writes an angry letter cautioning her not to feel jealous of the European ladies or he’ll think her ridiculous, at her age, to think such a thing (in a really angry way), etc. I’m just saying… not so equal. At least, not until John becaame President. Even as Vice President, their correspondence remained largely about the children and the farm, and issues under the “women’s purview.” She certainly grows into herself, and her discourses on various Capital Lettered Virtues are interesting, but they are few and far between. Its just an interesting contrast to the way that they are generally presented.
That all said, this book is worth it in that it does give such up front, eye witness accounts of the Revolution. There’s one particularly thrilling letter of Abigail’s that takes place within hearing and sight distance of a battle outside Boston that raged on for days, while cannon fire shook the house each night. It also gives an idea of the kind of people who were forging this revolution- farmers, shopkeepers, lawyers, people who had families to support. These people did not have independent means.
Sometimes I think that we forget that while John Adams was helping with a Declaration of Independence, his children still had to eat. Their struggles balancing high principled actions and necessity are extremely interesting. It is also worth it because of the geniune (sometimes silly and over the top) love that these two people had for each other, even after thirty years of marriage, how much they wanted to be in each other’s lives, mine each other’s thoughts and feelings, couldn’t wait for each minute that they spent in each other’s company, warts, complaints and all.
I really took my time to read this book and so enjoyed it. There are 1,167 original letters that remain today between John and Abigail Adams. They had such an incredible love story and throughout his political journey, he looked to Abigail as his greatest confidant and political resource. He consulted her in all matters and despite grueling years apart, their love and marriage survived. I have wanted to read this book forever and it did not disappoint. I would caution other readers that if you d