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American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson

Average Rating 3.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

A Good Book

The best thing about this biography was its intricate detail combined with its conversational tone. As a result of this duo, every topic discussed in the book is easily and thoroughly remembered. Additionaly, the book is broken down in to titled and dated chapters, maki...
The best thing about this biography was its intricate detail combined with its conversational tone. As a result of this duo, every topic discussed in the book is easily and thoroughly remembered. Additionaly, the book is broken down in to titled and dated chapters, making the book useful as a referance for those who don't wish to read cover to cover. If you're going to read only one book on early American history, this should be the one.

posted by Anonymous on May 2, 2001

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Most Helpful Critical Review

7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

American Sprhinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson

Before reading this book, I knew very little about Thomas Jefferson. I think that Ellis might have written this book with the idea that readers would already be very familiar with the life and accomplishments of Thomas Jefferson. Although I found some parts of the bo...
Before reading this book, I knew very little about Thomas Jefferson. I think that Ellis might have written this book with the idea that readers would already be very familiar with the life and accomplishments of Thomas Jefferson. Although I found some parts of the book difficult to understand, I overall enjoyed it. This book is not so much as a story of Thomas Jefferson┬┐s life, but a picking-apart of his character. Although it gave information about Thomas Jefferson the historical figure, it mainly focused on Thomas Jefferson the person, revealing that he had strengths and flaws just like any other person. I liked being able to read a biography that didn't simply document the events of Jefferson's life, but gave me a better insight into what type of person he was and how he reacted to the events and accomplishments in his life. For example, when the book talked about Jefferson writing the Declaration of Independence, it connected to it the fact that he was chosen as the writer because he was terrified and horrible at public speaking. I alsofound it fascinating to read about famous historical figures and what their relationships with each other were like. One of my favorite parts of the book was how it detailed the relationship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson and showed how it changed throughout the years. From this book, I learned that Jefferson was a multitalented, brilliant person. He was a great thinker, writer, architect, and political leader, yet through this book I learned that he had a bit of a dark side as well. The book gave me the idea that Jefferson may have had trouble in social situations, for example, it gave an account of a time as a teenager when he nervously tried to ask a to dance and was let down. This portrayal helped me to picture such a famous figure in American history as a real person. Overall, I enjoyed this book. Although I learned multitudes about Thomas Jefferson by reading it, I don't think I would recommend it to a person that doesn't know very much about Jefferson. If you have a little bit of background about Jefferson and his accomplishments, I think you will also enjoy this book.

posted by Anonymous on December 12, 2005

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2009

    All Character No History

    A self professed nerd i have begun to read a biography of each president to not only get to know the man but to understand better the history of a country i am proud to call my own. This book while it gives a beautiful description of thomas jefferson as an individual focusing on the duality of the utopia he imagines and the reality of his life as a part of the Virginia Tidewater Elite leaves out years of important history. His second term as president is hardly addressed as are his years spent in Williamsburg learning law and governing the state during the American Revolution. A great resource if you want to know how the man thought, not so good if you want to know the world in which he was thinking.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    An exceptional portrait series

    Rather than another Jefferson biography, Ellis delivers an exceptional series of portraits of the man who's thoughts and words are most often thought of when modern Americans consider "the Founder's Intent". These portraits serve to frame those thoughts into the context of time and place in which they originated. Ellis delivers on his intent of exposing the enigma of this complex man. The reader is left with the desire to open a dialog on the subject of 21st century American society and government and the complex relationships between what is often viewed as the governments proper role and the deep differences between what Jefferson intended it to be and what those who still use his name intend.

    Another fine edition to Ellis' contributions to our understanding of our founding, and the remarkable individuals who made it happen.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 18, 2011

    Recommend

    Joseph J. Ellis' American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson, gives a wonder description of the life and mindset of one of America's founding fathers. Ellis takes the reader from Jefferson's early life as a young man to his writing of the Declaration of Independance, to his death on July 4, 1826. This novel points out the nature of Jefferson's political and personal thoughts and describes how he came to his views. Ellis shows how complicated a man Jefferson was and how his beliefs were not always what his actions portrayed. This is a great book that I highly recommend to the average reader and to those who doing research into the life of America's third president.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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