Monticello: A Daughter and Her Father by Sally Cabot GunningFrom the critically acclaimed author of The Widows War comes a captivating work of literary historical fiction, set in America in the years after the Revolution, that explores the tenuous relationship between the brilliant and complex founding father Thomas Jefferson and his devoted daughter, Martha Jefferson Randolph.
After the early death of her mother, young Martha Jefferson accompanied her father, Thomas Jefferson, on his first diplomatic mission to Paris. Five years later, father and daughter have come home to Monticello, the family’s beloved plantation set high in the lush hills of the Virginia countryside.
Though Monticello has suffered from her father’s absence, Martha finds it essentially unchanged, even as she has been transformed. The sheltered girl that sailed to Europe is now a handsome seventeen-year-old woman with a battle-scarred heart, who sees a world far more complicated than it once seemed.
Blessed with her father’s sharp mind and independent spirit, Martha has long abhorred slavery and yearned for its swift end. Yet she now discovers that the home she adores is burdened by growing debt and cannot survive long without the labor of its slaves. Her bonds with those around her are shifting, too. As the doting father she has idolized since childhood returns to government, he becomes increasingly distracted by tumultuous fights for power and troubling attachments that pull him further away. And as Martha begins to pay closer attention to Sally Hemings—the beautiful light-skinned slave long acknowledged to be her mother’s half-sister—she realizes that the slave’s position in the household has subtly changed. Eager for distraction, Martha welcomes the attentions of Thomas Randolph, her exotic distant cousin, but soon Martha uncovers burdens and desires in him that threaten to compromise her own.
As her life becomes constrained by the demands of marriage, motherhood, politics, scandal, and her family’s increasing impoverishment, Martha yearns to find her way back to her childhood home; to the gentle beauty and quiet happiness of the world she once knew at the top of her father’s “little mountain.”
An irresistible blend of emotional drama, historical detail, and vivid atmosphere, Monticello skillfully brings to life Martha Jefferson Randolph, a strong and compelling woman who influenced -- as much as she was influenced by -- one of the most intriguing figures in American history.
Thomas Jefferson was the third of ten children in the family. His father who was Peter Jefferson , a planter and surveyor, died when he was fourteen. His mother was Jane Randolph Jefferson seldom mentioned his mother. She had one son by her first marriage: John Skelton , but he soon died in an accident. After the marriage, Jefferson brought Martha to live with him in his home in Charlottesville, Virginia , today is known as Monticello.
Jane Jefferson (Randolph)
An imposing, prosperous, well-liked farmer known for his feats of strength and his capacity for endurance in the wilderness, Peter Jefferson had amassed large tracts of land and scores of slaves in and around what became Albemarle County, Virginia. There, along the Rivanna, he built Shadwell, named after the London parish where his wife, Jane, had been baptized. The first half of the eighteenth century was a thrilling time to be young, white, male, wealthy, and Virginian. Money was to be made, property to be claimed, tobacco to be planted and sold…. As a surveyor and a planter, Peter Jefferson thrived there, and his eldest son, Thomas, born on April 13, , understood his father was a man other men admired. Celebrated for his courage, Peter Jefferson excelled at riding and hunting.
Daughter of Col. Born in the parish of Shadwell, near London, she was the daughter of Isham Randolph, a ship's captain. Her family moved to Virginia when she was young, though it is unclear from available sources whether she immediately accompanied them or joined them later. Randolph married Peter Jefferson, a surveyor and minor planter, at her father's plantation, Dungeness, in Virginia in Shortly afterwards they established a home near Charlottesville, which they named Shadwell, after her London birthplace. There is no evidence that Jane brought any land or servants to the marriage. Very little is known about her.