Genre: Alternative History, Political
Publication: July 9th, 2020
Age Group: Adult
From the New York Times bestselling author of American Wife and Eligible, a novel that imagines a deeply compelling what-might-have-been: What if Hillary Rodham hadn’t married Bill Clinton?
In 1971, Hillary Rodham is a young woman full of promise: Lifemagazine has covered her Wellesley commencement speech, she’s attending Yale Law School, and she’s on the forefront of student activism and the women’s rights movement. And then she meets Bill Clinton. A handsome, charismatic southerner and fellow law student, Bill is already planning his political career. In each other, the two find a profound intellectual, emotional, and physical connection that neither has previously experienced.
In the real world, Hillary followed Bill back to Arkansas, and he proposed several times; although she said no more than once, as we all know, she eventually accepted and became Hillary Clinton.
But in Curtis Sittenfeld’s powerfully imagined tour-de-force of fiction, Hillary takes a different road. Feeling doubt about the prospective marriage, she endures their devastating breakup and leaves Arkansas. Over the next four decades, she blazes her own trail—one that unfolds in public as well as in private, that involves crossing paths again (and again) with Bill Clinton, that raises questions about the tradeoffs all of us must make in building a life.
Brilliantly weaving a riveting fictional tale into actual historical events, Curtis Sittenfeld delivers an uncannily astute and witty story for our times. In exploring the loneliness, moral ambivalence, and iron determination that characterize the quest for political power, as well as both the exhilaration and painful compromises demanded of female ambition in a world still run mostly by men, Rodham is a singular and unforgettable novel.
As a person who holds two degrees in History, I really enjoyed this alternate history of what might have happened if Hillary Clinton hadn’t married Bill. This is an incredibly poignant book that is thought-provoking and oh so interesting! I found myself interrogating what it means to be a successful woman, thinking about the pressures that successful women face, and why women who stand up for themselves are always thought of as rude, catty, or sassy. I found myself relating to the story and thinking about my own experiences with success and the choices I’ve made for my career.
The book really picks up in the second half, when Hillary finally declines Bill’s offer and the true alternative history begins. This is a book I needed right now. It’s not a fast read, but it is critical, honest, and it left me considering my own life. Given that this is an alternate history, rather than the books I review most often, I’ll say that the pacing is good. I enjoyed that the point of view was Hillary, rather than a third party narrator. This made the book seem more real. I’ve seen some criticism that readers have been unable to connect with the characters, but I think that’s really a product of the fact that this is a book that deals with people who exist, rather than characters in a work of pure fiction. This is another point of criticism that I’ve seen, readers are unhappy that this book deals with people who have real lives. I would argue that this is the brilliance of this book. Now, in a time where we are trying to figure out the next election, we want to attempt to think about what happened in 2016 and how it could have been averted. I loved that about this book. It’s present and prescient, but also fulfills a need that I think we have.
Curtis Sittenfeld is a fantastic writer! I will be looking forward to her other books and her back catalog of titles! Thank you to Anne Cater with Random Things Through My Letterbox for organizing this tour and having me along! Thank you to the publisher and Curtis Sittenfeld as well! I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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 theOrange 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.