Saturday, May 17, 2014

Louisa Catherine - Review

Louisa Catherine: The Other Mrs. Adams by Margery M. Heffron

Rating: 4 Stars

Description:  This is an in-depth biography of the lesser known Mrs. Adams and the only first lady to be born on foreign soil.

Genre: Non-Fiction

My Impression:  The Adams family has been getting quite a lot of press the last 10 years ago with David McCollough's book, the HBO miniseries (which is fabulous by the way) and countless other books about John, Abigail or their relationship.  I personally have read an Abigail book recently (Dear Abigail - really enjoyed it) so I felt pretty up on my Adams history.  However, with all the press John and Abigail have gotten it feels that his son, John Quincey has been kind of swept into a corner and forgotten.  We know his name because of who his father is and because he is 1 of 2 father/son presidential sets but for me that's about it.  I know even less about his wife.  I don't think I even really knew her name until I stumbled across this book on NetGalley.  In this book we meet Louisa Catherine Johnson.  She is the daughter of an American merchant and an English woman of whom very little is known about.  She grew up in France and is the only foreign born First Lady.  She is reserved, sensitive and intelligent and thrust into the rather formidable Adams family with the extremely formidable Abigail as a not overjoyed mother-in-law.

In non-fiction and especially biographies I sometimes have a problem with the author getting too involved with details.  While I'm obviously interested in the subject I'm reading about I don't necessarily need to know what they had for breakfast on a given Tuesday unless it plays a role in the development of the character or events.  On the other side of the coin, I've found authors who skim over too many details making it hard to get a grip on the actual person you're reading about.  Heffron does a fantastic job of walking this particular line.  Louisa is the 2nd of 8 children but other than the names and birth years we aren't given all that much detail about her siblings - especially the younger ones - because she was not particularly close to them and they didn't play a role in her life. However, we do learn quite a bit about her parents because they were so influential.  As a reader I didn't feel like the sibling information was purposely left out or that I was missing gaps in the story.  Heffron's writing is very natural and I was able to pick it up for a few minutes and immediately jump in to the story which isn't always the case with non-fiction.

Heffron treated Louisa sympathetically but also realistically.  It didn't feel like she was trying to make Louisa perfect but nor was she trying to make her look bad or focus on the negatives sides of her personality.  I thoroughly enjoyed this biography on one of the lesser known First Ladies and feel that I have a much better understanding of Louisa, John Quincy and the world they lived in

At the beginning of the book it is noted that Heffron died shortly after finishing this book and before it had been accepted by any publishing company.  The book being published at all was due to the effort of her family and friends who took the necessary steps to make it happen.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?:  Yes, I wish she had been able to write more biographies on lesser known First Ladies.  I would've loved to read more of her work.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Absolutely.


  1. I don't read biographies often, but occasionally one catches my fancy. This one sounds like a really good one. I admit to knowing very little about Adams himself, much less about his wives. I will have to look for this one.

    1. I really enjoyed this one though I do tend to like biographies - especially for lesser known people. Abigail Adams was a bit formidable and I've always felt a little sorry for her daughter-in-law. Poor Louisa was definitely not equipped to really deal with the family. I really enjoyed this one!