"This thoughtful reflection on our third president's disposition and cast of mind merits company with the best recent works about the man...Yet the work's great value is to remind us that Jefferson was as much affected by mysteries of the unknown and fears for himself and mankind as he was the optimist who steered his bark 'with Hope in the head, leaving Fear astern.' "(Publishers Weekly)
- Jonathon Pyles
Lots of words, little detail
I was disappointed with this book because I was hoping for a detailed biography of the life of Jefferson, but what I found was relatively little detail about who he was and what happened in his life. Rather, this book is a kind of journey through the mind of Jefferson?and yet, it is not very interesting at that. At several points my patience was severely tried because the author spends at least as much time commenting, speculating, and digressing as he does actually laying out the facts. I wanted facts and interesting narratives?but that was generally not what I found. In contrast to this book, I listened to the one on John Adams by McCullough, and it was wonderful?full of rich detail about Adams? life and experiences?very interesting. This book was hard to listen to through the end however. In particular, was bothered by the poetic, flowery writing style. At first, it seemed refreshing?reminiscent of the 18th century style of writing. But soon it sounded purposelessly wordy and became annoying. The reader was not bad, but perhaps a little slow. I am sure that there are some people who would love this book?perhaps those who are of a more poetic persuasion and who are interested in a kind of psychological approach to Jefferson (although, in my opinion, this book fails to truly look into Jefferson?s inner-self because it does not attempt to seriously study and analyze Jefferson?s writings?of which there is much). I would have given it only two stars--but becuase I think that there are some people who might enjoy the book I did not want to discourage them too much.
- Nicholas Vence
A tedious read
After having finished David McCullough book on John Adams and Ron Chernow's book on Alexander Hamilton, I was expecting a brisk ride through the salient events in Jefferson's career. I especially wanted to hear Jefferson's side of his quarrels with Adams and Hamilton. Unfortunately, the "demons" which the title focuses on are not the political elements of Jefferson's life. Here are a few things I found tedious: the sections describing how he designed Monticello, the lack of detail in significant events--some were summed up in a single sentence, and finally the mellow, sing-songy voice of the narrator.
After further reflection, I realize that these grievances are really a reflection on Jefferson's personality and how he viewed the world--giving the reader more complete picture. Since these annoyances support the title, I can't really rate it one star. I found this book a fair, albeit unexciting, character sketch of Thomas Jefferson's darker side.
Don't be tempted
I'm afraid this book is a huge disappointment--not for the book itself, which is an interesting enough exploration of Jefferson's psyche--but because of the dull, sing-songy narration. I was particularly put off by the fey, foppish voice the narrator uses for Jefferson, and by the laughable mispronunciation of some basic French words. A bad interpretation all around, so bad that I can't bring myself to listen to it any longer. Avoid.