Saturday, May 24, 2008

Patriot Hearts by Barbara Hambly

Crowds started to gather outside the President's House not long after breakfast. ~ Patriot Hearts, 1st sentence.

Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Dolley Madison and Sally Hemings: four exceptional women who prevailed over the dangers and hardships of a time like no other, as the men they loved fought for a young country's freedom.

This is a very ambitious book. It covers a 28-year span in the lives of these extraordinary women. For the most part it does a credible job though I feel that trying to cover these four very complicated lives is also a downfall of the book. At times I found myself having trouble keeping the players straight. Each main character has a large or extended family and, nicknames, in addition to given names are used interchangeably for several characters. Also, and I thought only British royalty had a claim to this, several characters go by the same name or a version thereof. I found myself losing track of which character was actually being referred to and their place in the story being told. I feel the story would have been better served covering either a shorter time frame in history or focusing on the most closely related relationships between 2 of the 4 main characters.

Also switching time frames was, at times, confusing. For each of these 4 leading ladies we spent time with them looking back into their earlier life and in the present as it relates to the story. While the author tried to set apart the change in place & time by separating the story sequences with a break it wasn't always clear to me that it had transitioned.

I felt she did a very credible job in setting time and place. Speech, characterization, descriptions, etc. all seemed to fit with the story. One can envision the British troops marching on the Federal City and setting fire to the Presidential Mansion. Just a one can see Thomas Jefferson forever renovating Monticello. Taking tea in the parlor with the ladies while the gentlemen smoke cigars and loudly discuss the political issues of the day, and there were many to be discussed.

Overall I loved the history included in this story and marveled at these 4 strong, independent, leading ladies. I would read more from this author and in fact have her book, The Emancipator's Wife stored on my Kindle for future reading.

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