The Hamilton bug recently got to me, so I was in the mood to read some American history. Jefferson’s America by Julie M. Fenster seemed like a good surrogate. A founding father is a founding father, right? And the cover didn’t hurt, either. I love the hand-drawn map effect, and it’s not your typical cover that’s just a portrait of the person the book is about, the reason for which soon became clear. I guess I should have seen this coming since the subject of the title is technically America, but my Hamilton-addled brain only saw the Jefferson part. I thought it would be a book about Jefferson’s presidency. It’s actually much more about the different expeditions that Jefferson sent to find and set borders for the United States. The book goes into the relationships between the travelers and the people they encounter. It’s interesting to see the interactions with Native Americans, the French, and the Spanish, because the groups all want the same land but are also happy to get along if possible. Kind of. It definitely feels like we see the travels in terms of people rather than through dry descriptions of geography and surveying.
This book covers several exploration quests, and it could feel repetitive after a while but the author sprinkles in enough loony stories to keep things interesting. Seriously, some bizarre stuff happens on these adventures. It took me about a month to read the 368-page book, though I’ll attribute that to (a) a bit of a reading slump I’ve been in lately and (b) nonfiction being more of an aspirational genre for me. If you are trying to start reading more nonfiction, you might want to pick a more thrilling topic. However, if you’re interested in the time period (the beginning of the 19th century) or the topic, Jefferson’s America is a good one to check out.
3 out of 5 stars
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.