American Wife

On the plane back from Miami I was engrossed in CurtisSittenfeld’s American Wife. "Sittenfeld tracks the life of bookish, naïve Alice Lindgren and the trajectory that lands her in the White House as first lady. Charlie Blackwell, her boyishly charming rake of a husband, whose background of Ivy League privilege, penchant for booze and partying, contempt for the news and habit of making flubs when speaking off the cuff, bears more than a passing resemblance to the former president (though the Blackwells hail from Wisconsin, not Texas). Sittenfeld shines early in her portrayal of Alice’s coming-of-age in Riley, Wis., living with her parents and her mildly eccentric grandmother. A car accident in her teens results in the death of her first crush, which haunts Alice even as she later falls for Charlie and becomes overwhelmed by his family’s private summer compound and exclusive country club membership. Later, (…) the first couple deal with Charlie being ostracized as a president who favors an increasingly unpopular war."

The first part of the book was wonderful, exciting and well-written. The fact that it was loosely based on Laura Bush was kind of distracting, since I would replay events in the book against my mental library, wondering if that particular thing that actually happened. And truth be told, the first part was better than the last. But that didn’t retract from how much I liked reading it. Those semi-historical, semi-biographical novels are an interesting genre, and coming so soon after Obama’s inauguration it was interesting to see what Sittenfeld’s sense of the Bush years was.


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