Today, it’s a small review of a big book that I have recently read and devoured – American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld.
With Sittenfeld’s hotly anticipated Rodham being published in hardback in the UK, I thought it was finally time that I read American Wife – a book I have been meaning to get to in ages. So, I finally took the plunge and read it… but first, what’s it about? Here’s the synopsis:
Quiet, bookish Alice Blackwell never dreamed of being First Lady. Much less to a President whose politics she doesn’t believe in. On perhaps the most important day of her husband’s presidency, Alice looks back on the strange and unlikely path that led her to the White House, and to a decision – both treacherous and long overdue – that could jeopardise everything.
Taking inspiration from real life, American Wife is a remarkable portrait of a woman caught between her feelings for her husband, her country, and herself.
It’s a very small synopsis but it’s a big book with over 600 pages. At first, I thought there was no way I was going to get through it, especially before Rodham being published. But once I got into it, I found it hard to put down. I think it’s the perfect book to escape into on a long weekend where you can just read for hours and hours uninterrupted (hopefully). At first, I think it’s safe to say that it took me a while to get into but like I said, once I was into it, I couldn’t put it down.
This is my first time reading Sittenfeld but I think she’s a bloody genius writer. I love how she develops character – the character of Alice Blackwell – is a great character to go on a “journey’ with and that’s true to the rest of the characters, too. From the other big characters like Alice’s husband Charlie, their daughter Ella, or the smaller characters – they all feel three-dimensional, jumping from the page. Sittenfeld is a very clever writer in using this form of Alice looking back on her life and her path to the most famous house in the world.
The novel is loosely based on a previous First Lady, Laura Bush which I find fascinating. I loved seeing Alice as a young woman with her family, going to Chicago with her grandmother and so much more throughout the novel from where she first meets Charlie to when they are in the White House. One of the things I love about Sittenfeld’s writing is the way she describes the atmosphere surrounding Alice – I could just picture them in the White House, her on the plane, her with her family eating dinner, at the Club House, and so on and I think that’s a true skill as a writer. I also loved how Sittenfeld would set up something – even something small – and then use it in the story later. She’s also a great writer in terms of pacing, which in a book over 600 pages, she accomplishes.
I loved being lost in this world and the gorgeous prose from Sittenfeld and I can see why this book is loved by many. There are so many themes at play in this novel: from grief, death, adulthood, growing up, family, social class, race, gender, politics, but one of my favourite aspects that Sittenfeld explores is of fame and celebrity when Alice is talking about the pressure she faces as First Lady as I found it still resonates today and nobody could be prepared for the role Alice takes on as First Lady.
If you’re looking for a big book to lose yourself in over a weekend, this is a great book that does just that. Plenty of twists and turns, big decisions, heartbreak, but a book you wouldn’t want to put down. I can’t wait to get into Rodham next and read more of the genius that is Curtis Sittenfeld.
Have you read American Wife? What did you think? Let me know in the comments, below!