Mrs. Adams in Winter by Michael O'Brien
A Journey in the Last Days of Napoleon

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Synopsis

Early in 1815, Louisa Catherine Adams and her young son left St. Petersburg in a heavy Russian carriage and set out on a difficult journey to meet her husband, John Quincy Adams, in Paris. She traveled through the snows of eastern Europe, down the Baltic coast to Prussia, across the battlefields of Germany, and into a France then experiencing the tumultuous events of Napoleon’s return from Elba. Along the way, she learned what the long years of Napoleon’s wars had done to Europe, what her old friends in the royal court in Berlin had experienced during the French occupation, how it felt to have her life threatened by reckless soldiers, and how to manage fear.

The journey was a metaphor for a life spent crossing borders: born in London in 1775, she had grown up partly in France, and in 1797 had married into the most famous of American political dynasties and become the daughter-in-law of John and Abigail Adams.

The prizewinning historian Michael O’Brien reconstructs for the first time Louisa Adams’s extraordinary passage. An evocative history of the experience of travel in the days of carriages and kings, Mrs. Adams in Winter offers a moving portrait of a lady, her difficult marriage, and her conflicted sense of what it meant to be a woman caught between worlds.
 

About Michael O'Brien

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Michael O’Brien is Professor of American Intellectual History at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of Conjectures of Order: Intellectual Life and the American South, 1810–1860, which won the Bancroft Prize and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in History.
 
Published March 2, 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 374 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Travel, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Mrs. Adams in Winter

Kirkus Reviews

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Rather, Louisa Catherine Adams was her London-born daughter-in-law, the wife to Abigail’s son John Quincy Adams.

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The New York Times

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$27 Mrs. Adams set down her account to prove that she existed, to challenge the notion of “feminine imbecility.” O’Brien consistently goes her one better, mining her journey for its “iconic significance.” Louisa Adams became a permanent resident of the United States only at 42;

Mar 25 2010 | Read Full Review of Mrs. Adams in Winter: A Journ...

The New York Times

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She was neither the first nor the last diplomatic wife to receive the directive, later reduced to six words: “Pay, pack and follow, at convenience.” The version that reached Louisa Catherine Adams in January 1815 was less succinct — her husband was John Adams’s son after all — but she could hardl...

Mar 25 2010 | Read Full Review of Mrs. Adams in Winter: A Journ...

Examiner

Just in time for the Fourth of July festivities, Michael O'Brien's Mrs. Adams in Winter offers a patriotic and unique look at the early years of the United States as it settled itself as a world presence.

Jun 28 2012 | Read Full Review of Mrs. Adams in Winter: A Journ...

The Washington Times

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She laughed off this news, saying she “hoped to escape the pleasure altogether.” Still, as the book soberly informs us, “Overturning was, in fact, not uncommon, and Mrs. Adams was unusual in never experiencing it.” Although she was traveling across Northern Europe in February and early March, w...

Mar 19 2010 | Read Full Review of Mrs. Adams in Winter: A Journ...

Review (Barnes & Noble)

Some readers, if they had the misfortune to be assigned The Education of Henry Adams in school, may remember Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams—she is Mrs. John Quincy Adams, the ancient grandmother whom the young Henry, with his usual morose sensitivity, perceives as not really belonging to Boston, ...

Mar 02 2010 | Read Full Review of Mrs. Adams in Winter: A Journ...

Historical Novel Society

Louisa Catherine Adams, best known in history as the wife of President John Quincy Adams, is the main character in this book, which takes place in 1815 when John is the first American minister to Russia.

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Bookmarks Magazine

Along the way, she learned what the long years of Napoleon’s wars had done to Europe, what her old friends in the royal court in Berlin had experienced during the French occupation, how it felt to have her life threatened by reckless soldiers, and how to manage fear.

The journey was a meta...

Mar 15 2010 | Read Full Review of Mrs. Adams in Winter: A Journ...

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