From the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian of the American Revolutionary period, a dual biography of two of America's most enduringly fascinating figures, whose partnership helped birth a nation, and whose subsequent falling out did much to fix its course.
This is an engrossing story, which Wood tells with a mastery of detail and a modern plainness of expression that makes a refreshing contrast with the 18th-century locutions of his subjects ... Wood acknowledges the force of Adams’s fears. He also clearly admires him as a contrarian: 'In all of American history, no political leader of Adams’s stature, and certainly no president, has ever so emphatically denied the belief in American exceptionalism'...Jefferson he finds too sunny for this world...In the end, however, Wood, almost against his inclinations, declares Jefferson the winner of this philosophical smack-down. The proof of the theory is in the eating. Jefferson explained, as well as anyone, how democracy could work; since America has endured, it is at least possible that Jefferson was right.
He isn't afraid to critique the men; Friends Divided is far from a hagiography. Wood calls attention to Jefferson's misogyny and racism — hardly unusual for a man of his time, but still notable for a man who is routinely lionized in American society ... One of the most fascinating parts of Friends Divided is Wood's account of the two presidents' reconciliation ... Friends Divided is an engaging book that's sure to appeal to anyone with an abiding interest in Revolution-era America and the leaders who shaped the country. Beautifully written and with real insight into Jefferson and Adams, it's a worthy addition to the canon, and yet another compelling book from Wood.
...a splendid account of the improbable friendship, estrangement and reconciliation between Adams, an irascible, ironic, hypersensitive middle-class New England lawyer, and Jefferson, a self-contained, diplomatic, slaveholding Virginia aristocrat ... Wood claims that Adams was too skeptical, contrarian and cynical and too much inclined to question just about every element of the American dream to capture the imaginations of his fellow Americans. Wood is right — for most of American history. But he leaves you wondering which Founding Father is more likely to connect in 2017 with our all too anxious and angry, partisan, polarized and paralyzed nation.