"First Family: Abigail and John Adams"
By Joseph J. Ellis
Knopf, 299 pages, $27.95
Before Barack and Michelle, Eleanor and Franklin and certainly before the brand otherwise known as Brangelina, came America's first power couple: John and Abigail Adams.
As Valentine's Day beckons and the racks of syrupy greeting cards sag, one is reminded of the thousands of letters exchanged between Abigail and John Adams. Now that was a real relationship!
In "First Family," historian Joseph J. Ellis insightfully depicts a husband and wife who sustained their love despite the daunting challenges and turbulent times of our nation's founding.
Ellis is the winner of the 1997 National Book Award for "American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson" - a lucid and elegant look at Jefferson - and the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for history for "Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation," the story of the nation's founding through the interactions among individuals such as George Washington, James Madison and Aaron Burr. Ellis seems to be channeling the Adamses as he fuses together their intimate emotional experience with the context of the republic at its earliest. His full metabolization of the Adamses' letters works to inform this love story. The union created by our Founding Fathers may be having its problems these days, but the Adamses' relationship, rendered with elan by Ellis, may have been close to ideal -and certainly richer and more vivid than any Hallmark depiction of romance.