Thursday, July 03, 2008

Patriot Hearts

Patriot Hearts, by Barbara Hambly

I've read damn near everything Barbara Hambly's ever written, and while there were a few of her books I didn't like so much, I never thought she could write anything so BORING. This story of the first four First Ladies (counting Thomas Jefferson's slave mistress, Sally Hemings) is a rambling, episodic collection of flashbacks -- and often, flashbacks within flashbacks -- loosely tied together by an unnecessary frame device. None of the heroines emerges as a particularly interesting character, and indeed the book had the effect of making me less sympathetic with some of them (Martha Washington tsking that Pennsylvania's anti-slavery laws complicate her housekeeping arrangements, Abigail Adams fuming that an Irish immigrant shouldn't have political opinions because he has no stake in the country). There's no driving, overarching story here; and while I don't doubt that a peek behind the scenes into the domestic side of the great events of early American history could make a fascinating novel, this isn't it.

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