Thursday, June 30, 2011

Book Review: John Adams by David McCullough, narrated by Edward Herrmann

June is national audiobook month, so I decided it was finally time after months of listening to little snippets of John Adams here and there, to make a big effort and finally finish it. I am so glad I did! I kept hoping that the little snippets would grab me and make me want to listen more, but they never did. However, when I started listening to much longer segments and more often, it became much more enjoyable, as I wasn't always trying to remember who was who and what was going on and where were we, all that sort of thing.

McCullough is of course known for his masterful and exhaustive but readable biographies, and John Adams certainly hits all of those marks. For me, the section on France was a bit too long, and then I felt we got a little bit of the short shrift on his presidency and later years. But I still learned a massive amount and it was thoroughly enjoyable. Did you know that Jefferson thought revolutions were so great, that countries ought to have them every 20 years or so?

The best part of the story of course is the long famous romance between John and Abigail, who adored each other, respected each other, and had an enviable relationship even for today, let alone for the time. I think one reason I may not have liked the long France section so much is that Abigail wasn't there, and for a long stretch John even stopped writing to her.

Before reading this I watched the HBO miniseries based on it, and the miniseries was very faithful to the book (although I did not note any passage in which Franklin takes a bath with a woman in Adams's presence but certain facts are difficult to present visually. And McCullough was a consultant to the miniseries so I doubt he'd allow any wholesale fiction episodes in the show.)

One quibble about the audiobook: it would have been well served if there were little musical bits that could be played to indicate section breaks. Sometimes there was a long pause in the narration and I often wasn't sure if it was intentional or not. Musical interludes would make that obvious, and a lot of audiobooks do use that feature. Especially as the chapters are very, very long (often well over the length of a CD). Mr. Hermann was a perfect choice for narrator: dignified, solemn, and articulate.

Audiosynced is a monthly feature hosted by Stacked and Abby (the Librarian). On the first of each month, they rotate the blogger round up of audiobook news, reviews, and more shared in the blogosphere in the last month. The June round up will be hosted by Stacked.

I bought this audiobook (on CDs) with my staff discount at my previous job.


Julie @ Read Handed said...

This book sounds fascinating. I love biographies of historical figures like Adams. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Sue Hennings said...

Did you know that most New England seaport towns had smuggling tunnels? Would you believe that the founders of our federal government used them to avoid paying duties and tax that the rest of the citizens had to pay? The majority were supporters of Adams and his Federalist Party.

To find out more about the real tunnels in Salem about read Salem Secret Underground:The History of the Tunnels in the City and then take the cool Salem walking tour about them. Learn how 144 people hid behind the creation of a park to build a series of tunnels in Salem utilizing the nation’s first National Guard to build them so a superior court justice, a Secretary of the Navy, and a bunch of Senators could avoid paying Jefferson’s custom duties. Engineered by the son of America’s first millionaire.