I’m pleased to welcome you today to my stop on the blog tour for the fascinating Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld. Thank you to Anne Cater and Penguin Random House for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book.
About the book:
‘Awfully opinionated for a girl’ is what they call Hillary as she grows up in her Chicago suburb.
Smart, diligent, and a bit plain, that’s the general consensus. Then Hillary goes to college, and her star rises. At Yale Law School, she continues to be a leader― and catches the eye of driven, handsome and charismatic Bill. But when he asks her to marry him, Hillary gives him a firm No.
How might things have turned out for them, for America, for the world itself, if Hillary Rodham had really turned down Bill Clinton?
With her sharp but always compassionate eye, Sittenfeld explores the loneliness, moral ambivalence and iron determination that characterise the quest for high office, as well as the painful compromises demanded of female ambition in a world ruled by men.
About the author:
In addition to Rodham, Curtis Sittenfeld is the author of the Sunday Times bestseller American Wife, in which she painted a picture of an ordinary American girl – a thinly-disguised Laura Bush – who found herself married to a President. It was longlisted for the Orange Prize, as was her debut novel Prep.
Her other books are Man of My Dreams, Sisterland (a Richard & Judy Book Club pick), Eligible, and the acclaimed short story collection You Think It, I’ll Say It.
Her books are translated into 30 languages.
She lives with her family in the American Mid-West.
Although I know next to nothing about politics, I was intrigued by the premise of Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld as soon as I heard about it. Everyone, whether they understand politics or not, has heard of Hillary and Bill Clinton, the infamous American power couple: Bill, controversial former President and Hillary, the one that never quite made it.
But what if Hillary Rodham had refused Bill Clinton for the third and final time when he asked her to marry him? Would the nightmare scenario of 2016 still have happened? Or would things have been very different? In Rodham, a fictionalised account of Hillary Rodham’s life, Curtis Sittenfeld attempts to find out.
Told in three parts, Rodham begins in the 1970’s at Yale University as Hillary is trying to decide who she is going to become. A feisty young woman, her star begins to rise and she soon catches the eye of the handsome and charismatic Bill Clinton. Here we see a reimagining of Hillary and Bill’s early years together and is the part of the book I enjoyed the most. They seem incredibly well matched, both ambitious, with Bill already having his eye on the top job even at such a young age. This part of Hillary’s story is fairly light and easy to read, the first flush of love between the young couple palpably intense and beautifully written. I have to admit it felt a little bit like voyeurism at first, but I soon got past that and began to enjoy the story for what it was rather than for who it was about.
We then move forward to 1991, with politics beginning to take a more central role in the story. Hillary and Bill’s earlier romance is now over after he had a dalliance with another woman, which sounds very much like the Bill Clinton we know in the real world. This part of the story is told with an emotional intensity that sees the former couple move forward with their lives, but never quite losing sight of each other as their paths continue to cross in their chosen careers. This middle section is probably the part I enjoyed the least, but still gave a fascinating glimpse into the world of politics and the very different roles both Hillary and Bill play in it.
The third part brings us closer to a fictional version of the present day, with the story becoming an intriguing character study of the woman Hillary would have become if she hadn’t married Bill. A strong, determined, not always likeable woman it must be said, who has finally become the person she was always meant to be. But how does that differ from the Hillary we’ve come to know in the real world? And would the outcome of the 2016 election have been very different or still the same?
To find out you’ll need to read the book for yourself, but suffice to say Rodham is a fascinating and entertaining read that gives us an insight into the cutthroat world of politics. The usual suspect are all there, including the current president of the United States, who (without getting too political) is exactly as you would expect him to be.
Curtis Sittenfeld has written a book that is as unique as it is compelling. This reimagining of Hillary’s life drew me in from the very first page and paints a picture of a complex woman who was always destined to lead an extraordinary life, whether she had stayed with Bill Clinton or not. A thought provoking read that I would highly recommend.
Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld is available to purchase from July 9th: Amazon UK
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