Thursday, September 25, 2008

American Wife: a review

Curtis Sittenfeld's new novel is a fictionalized story of Laura Bush's life, but don't let that deter you. As she says in this interview, although it is loosely based on Bush's life, about 85% of it is totally made up.

An epic novel, it spans Alice Blackwell's life from high school until middle age. Alice is a very likeable and complicated character, and the book explores some themes I've thought about a lot, such as how the private lives and opinions of political figures contrast with what they show the public, and the responsibilities of presidential spouses. Charlie Blackwell, her husband, I found much less appealing, and I'm sorry to say he reminded me a great deal of George W. Bush. I didn't understand Alice's attraction to him, but it didn't lessen my enjoyment of the book, and in fact their complicated marriage provided great food for thought about the way marriages work (or don't work). For the most part I didn't think about the Bush family as I read this, but just enjoyed it as a novel. So if you're concerned about reading a big long book about someone you don't necessarily like, please don't let that keep you from reading this. Sittenfeld is a great author and American Wife is well worth your time to read.

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