Clover Adams: A Gilded and Heartbreaking Life

Written by Natalie Dykstra
Review by Susan Zabolotny

This nonfiction account of the life and death of Marian “Clover” Hooper Adams begins with her birth in Boston in 1843. At age 28 she marries Henry Adams; she is wealthy, and he is historically renowned. They travel, read, ride horseback, and entertain the intellectually elite. In 1883 Clover takes up photography and fills three red leather albums with her work. The author does a wonderful analysis of these pictures.

Clover maintains a close relationship with her father, but with his death in April 1885 her occasional dark moods begin to overwhelm her. In spite of Henry’s best efforts to help her she commits suicide in December 1885 by drinking the potassium cyanide used to process her photographs. Henry commissions the famous bronze statue known as “Grief” that marks their graves in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington DC.

This book gives an interesting account of her life and death, but I feel there is some supposition on the part of the author regarding Clover’s final months. The death of her father meant the end of the letters that told us so much about this interesting and tragic figure. But overall this is a well-researched, well-crafted story. I highly recommend it.