Sunday, June 16, 2013

American Phoenix by Jane Hampton Cook

Title:  American Phoenix:  John Quincy Adams and Louisa Adams, the War of 1812, and the Exile that Saved American Independence
Author:  Jane Hampton Cook
Pages:  450
Year:  2013
Publisher:  Thomas Nelson
                This is an amazingly detailed recounting from the private journals of John Quincy Adams and Louisa Adams before he was President of the United States.  The time period is around 1815, with a look back at various events in historical context that took place before this time to provide information relevant to what was currently happening in their respective journals.
                Reading the private thoughts of those who lived in the 1800s is so very interesting to me.  Through their thoughts, readers get to experience vicariously the life from that time period.  The difficulties in traveling whether by sea or by land, the length of time to get anywhere and the waiting between or for any type of communication are just a few of the difficulties seen.  The anguish Louisa felt in leaving her two oldest sons behind in American while she, her husband and her youngest son traveled to Russia is so very poignant.  Louisa thought they would be gone only a year, two at the most; however, their journey lasted far longer.  The desperate longing for the two to be reunited after being apart almost a year with Louisa staying in Russia and John traveling elsewhere pulls at the heartstrings.  The dedication of John Quincy to serve his country and putting the needs of his country ahead of his own is practically unheard of in today’s society.  This deserves our admiration and respect.  Thanks to the author for showing us a side of these political figures I had not seen before.
                The amount of meticulous research needed to produce such a work must have been monumental.  The time required to compile all the journal entries, put them in some semblance of order and deciding what to include and what not to include are just some of the hurdles the author must have faced when taking on this project.  Her hard work and attention to detail are obvious.  The writing style is somewhat antiquated due to the use of original diary entries and some readers might find the prose difficult to follow.  I am a fan of the Victorian age, so I’ve read several books in this style and therefore, I had no trouble following the style.  However, the timeline did seem to jump around without letting the reader know so it required some re-reading to discover when things were taking place.  I also think the book could have been shortened by about 100 pages.  The length of the account may be a bit daunting for some readers.  Overall, this is a very good historical account about two people to whom much is ignored today.  I learned quite a lot about them and would recommend this book.
My rating is 4 stars.
Note:  I received a complimentary copy for an honest review of this book.  The opinions shared in this review are solely my responsibility.  Other reviews can be read at .  Also follow me on Twitter @lcjohnson1988, FaceBook at

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