Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams by Louisa Thomas gives a well researched and comprehensive glimpse into the life of Louisa Adams, the wife of John Quincy Adams. At first it was hard to imagine that Louisa Adams would have a riveting biography of 457 pages, and I must admit there were other people higher on my list to read about. If I would be in the habit of wearing a hat, I would gladly eat it at this point. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the look into Mrs. Adams historic life. Thomas has an uncanny ability to make what could have been a list of dates and dry material have movement, life, sorrow, and joy. This book reads like fiction, and kept me turning the pages. I was halfway through the book before I stopped for air.
As a matter of introduction, Louisa Adams was born to an American businessman father and an aristocratic british mother in 1775. She was raised speaking french in England and also with the notion that she must marry an American. Of course, she did meet and eventually marry a young John Quincy Adams, and the rest, one may say is history.
“Louisa Adams understood him. Sometimes she thought she could see through him. Certainly, she could see politics for what it was, and she knew at that moment there was a part she could play”
Yet what an amazing history it was! This story of her life was taken mostly from her own writings- journals, diaries, attempts at an autobiography, giving it an air of authority and also familiarity. Besides the typical biography facts, like where she was born, she lived here, she lived there, these were her children- what I found most interesting was Louisa’s thoughts and views- especially those of the roles of women. Her opinions on how much importance is placed on a dowry, the frustration of not having control of your life or choices, the lack of understanding especially revolving around sacrifices made are all chronicled. It was fascinating to be reading an account of a 19th century lady who grew and matured and how she came to terms with herself, her husband, and the times in which she found herself.
Louisa gives the reader a lot more than just a retelling of a woman’s life married to a man who made a mark on American history. This book tells the story of a woman in an era when being a woman didn’t come with the advantages of our modern times- and how she struggled to survive and be her own person. It was in this capacity that I was drawn in the story of Louisa Adam’s life, and finished feeling inspired.