Wednesday, September 10, 2008

American Wife

When I first saw the ad for Curtis Sittenfeld's new novel, American Wife, I was excited. I loved how Sittenfeld was able to get inside a teenager's head in her first novel, Prep, and I could only expect that she would do the same with this one.

And I was definitely not disappointed. American Wife tells the story of Alice Lindgren Blackwell, wife of the American President. Following events that may lead to substantial trouble for the Blackwell presidency, Alice recounts previous times in her life that have led her to this point. From there, the story is split into 4 sections: Alice's teen years, her work life and first meeting her husband, life as a wife and mother, and finally, her time in the White House. The different sections were a bit uneven, as I found the second and third sections the most compelling. However, Sittenfeld definitely succeeds in capturing Alice's thoughts - as a shy teenager, a mostly-confident-with-herself woman, a wife, a mother, and a public figure. Definitely an engaging and fulfilling read.

There has been much discussion of this book in light that it is basically a fictionalized life of Laura Bush. Thankfully, politics is left out of most of the book - mentioned increasingly in subsequent sections, with the final section most obviously immersed in politics. The key point, though, is that the First Wife is not the President - they are separate people, with separate thoughts and ideas. Considering how little we have heard from Laura in the past 8 years, I found this an interesting take on the personalities within the White House.

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