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Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams by Louisa Thomas: A Book Review

Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams
Author: Louisa Thomas
Genre: Nonfiction, History, Biography
Publisher: Penguin Press
Release Date: April 5, 2016
Pages: 499
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review 
Synopsis: An intimate portrait of Louisa Catherine Adams, the wife of John Quincy Adams, who witnessed firsthand the greatest transformations of her time.  

     Born in London to an American father and a British mother on the eve of the Revolutionary War, Louisa Catherine Johnson was raised in circumstances very different from the New England upbringing of the future president John Quincy Adams, whose life had been dedicated to public service from the earliest age. And yet John Quincy fell in love with her, almost despite himself. Their often tempestuous but deeply close marriage lasted half a century. 

     They lived in Prussia, Massachusetts, Washington, Russia, and England, at royal courts, on farms, in cities, and in the White House. Louisa saw more of Europe and America than nearly any other woman of her time. But wherever she lived, she was always pressing her nose against the glass, not quite sure whether she was looking in or out. The other members of the Adams family could take their identity for granted—they were Adamses; they were Americans—but she had to invent her own. The story of Louisa Catherine Adams is one of a woman who forged a sense of self. As the country her husband led found its place in the world, she found a voice. That voice resonates still. 

     In this deeply felt biography, the talented journalist and historian Louisa Thomas finally gives Louisa Catherine Adams's full extraordinary life its due. An intimate portrait of a remarkable woman, a complicated marriage, and a pivotal historical moment, Louisa Thomas's biography is a masterful work from an elegant storyteller.

     My Review: Louisa Adams is the only first lady who was not born on American soil. This biography, which chronicles Louisa’s life, shows us her glamorous lifestyle. Yet behind the glittering facade of balls and lavish dinners, Louisa also experienced personal tragedies. She is a woman who constantly tries to find her self-identity. Despite her most difficult moments, Louisa has made many accomplishments and has been an advocate for women’s rights.

     Even though her critics have labeled her as a British lady, she was actually half-American. Her father was a Southern merchant who handled his business in London. Her parents raised her in London society, yet they wanted her to marry an American. It was during one of the social events that her parents put on that John Quincey Adams met Louisa. She was not only beautiful and lively, but he also liked her beautiful voice, which she sung to entertain him. Eventually the two of them married. To my surprise, their marriage was very tempestuous. He often put her down and criticized her lifestyle. Yet, despite the flaws in their marriage, they loved each other and were very close. Louisa helped John Quincey Adams in his political career by hosting lavish dinners. It was because of her efforts that John Quincy Adams was able to win the election against the more dashing Andrew Jackson.

     Overall, this was an interesting biography of Louisa Adams. I never knew much of her story before I read this biography, and she seemed to be a very strong, passionate woman. She is also very courageous for she braved a dangerous journey from Russia to France during war torn Europe. She is also a woman who had to face many tragedies for she has outlived her husband and all but one son. Yet, despite her personal tragedies, she has made many accomplishments. She tirelessly advocated for women's rights. She believed that women were equal to men in both mind and intellect. She believed that women should petition to the Congress. Thus this book not only sheds some light into the Adams family, but it is also a great tribute to a woman who has been overshadowed by the other Mrs. Adams.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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