Saturday, December 8, 2018

First Women - Nonfiction Review

Rating: Loved It!
Source: Library

One of the most underestimated—and challenging—positions in the world, the First Lady of the United States must be many things: an inspiring leader with a forward-thinking agenda of her own; a savvy politician, skilled at navigating the treacherous rapids of Washington; a wife and mother operating under constant scrutiny; and an able CEO responsible for the smooth operation of countless services and special events at the White House. Now, as she did in her smash #1 bestseller The Residence, former White House correspondent Kate Andersen Brower draws on a wide array of untapped, candid sources—from residence staff and social secretaries to friends and political advisers—to tell the stories of the ten remarkable women who have defined that role since 1960.

Brower offers new insights into this privileged group of remarkable women, including Jacqueline Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, Patricia Nixon, Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, and Michelle Obama. The stories she shares range from the heartwarming to the shocking and tragic, exploring everything from the first ladies’ political crusades to their rivalries with Washington figures; from their friendships with other first ladies to their public and private relationships with their husbands. She also offers a detailed and insightful new portrait of one of the most-watched first ladies of all time, Hillary Clinton, asking what her tumultuous years in the White House may tell us about her own historic presidential run . . . and what life could be like with the nation’s first First Husband.

Candid and illuminating, this first group biography of the modern first ladies provides a revealing look at life upstairs and downstairs at the world’s most powerful address.

Genre:  Nonfiction

Why I Picked This Book:
I loved The Residence by this author and was very curious about this one.

My Impression:
  I don't read about politics for pleasure but at the same time I'm fascinated by the people involved - especially the residents of the White House.  I had read a previous book by this author called The Residence which focused on the permanent staff and it was one of my favorite reads of 2015.  I was somewhat concerned that this would be kind of a repeat because there was quite a bit about life in the White House for the first family in that book.  However, this book focused more on the women who held the title of First Lady themselves.  From their upbringings, their marriage, their family, their ambitions, and their thoughts on living in one of the world's most famous residences.

I really felt like I got to know these women from Jackie Kennedy to Michelle Obama in a way I never really had before.  No real mention of the politics that landed them in the White House is mentioned and the focus is just on them and what they believe is important.  I was surprised by how emotional read this was.  There was so much heartbreak in all of their lives and I found tears in my eyes more than once.  The bond and complicated relationships these women share was fascinating.  I had no idea that Jackie Kennedy admired Nancy Reagan for having a sense of style and glamor and developed a friendly relationship with Hilary Clinton as they discussed raising children in the White House.  Or that Lady Bird Johnson and Betty Ford were so close that Lady Bird had a framed photo of Betty near her bed when she died.  I had no idea that Laura Bush and Michelle Obama are actually quite good friends and Laura was very helpful to Michelle as she learned how to navigate the office of First Lady.  I had no idea that Barbara Bush was descended from President Franklin Pierce nor how monumental Betty Ford's announcement of her breast cancer diagnosis and later her struggle with addiction really was.

This is a fascinating biography of an amazing and varied group of women.  Even if you don't like mixing pleasure and politics (like me!) I think you'll find this book a winner.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?
  Absolutely.  I'm looking forward to reading more from this author.

Would I Recommend this Book?
  I would.  I really enjoyed this book even though it did make me cry more than once or twice.


  1. I'll definitely want to take a look at this book at some stage. I'm always fascinated by the behind the scenes looks at the Presidents and their families. I'll be adding this to wishlist!

  2. I want to read it for total sure. It will definitely be on my reading agenda for 2019. I know strange for a NZer to be fascinated but I think for many the White House has an aura of interest. Going to look it up in the library right now.

  3. I liked The Residence and think I'd probably enjoy this even more!