Tag Archives: Curtis Stittenfeld

RODHAM by Curtis Sittenfeld

Hillary Rodham Clinton is one of the most scrutinized, analyzed and discussed public figures in the world. Most of us are pretty familiar with her narrative at this point, from her Yale Law School days through her years in Arkansas when Bill Clinton was governor, her 8 years as First Lady, and then her post-White House career as senator from New York, Secretary of State, and candidate for U.S. President. But what if that narrative had taken a very different turn? What if Hillary had turned down Bill’s multiple marriage proposals? How would her career have turned out? Would she have run for office, and would she have won? This is the subject of Curtis Sittenfeld’s latest novel, Rodham.

Why I picked it up: I am a big fan of both women – Sittenfeld and Clinton – so this was a no-brainer for me. (I am also a Sittenfeld completist.)

[A confession upfront: I love Hillary. I voted for her, I wish (hourly) that she were our president. My husband worked for her at the State Department, so I’ve met her and know (through him) what she was like to work for. I also feel a little protective of her, so I approached Rodham with a little trepidation too.]

I liked Rodham and found it engaging and thought-provoking. Sittenfeld is a master storyteller, and she doesn’t disappoint in this latest book. There’s a lot to unpack here – Hillary’s relationship with Bill, the origins of her public service career, the misogyny she has faced from the beginning of her professional life. The book is very sympathetic to Hillary, offering her perspective on some of the statements that have dogged her for years (remember the “home baking cookies” comment?) and expressing her own confusion over why she often provoked such enmity. And of course, it’s interesting to think about the ways in which our history would have changed if Hillary hadn’t taken the path she had: the elections she would have fun for, the offices she could have held, the presidencies (ahem!) she could have prevented. I had to remind myself often of Sittenfeld’s timeline, replacing history in my mind with this new fact pattern.

I did have a few issues with Rodham First, I am not sure Sittenfeld sufficiently made the case for why Hillary was so polarizing beyond just being an accomplished, smart woman. Without Whitewater, her failed health care reform and the scandal of Bill’s presidency, the foundation for why she was so hated by the time she ran for president was a little shaky. Second, I think Bill gets a raw deal here. (This Bill is pretty awful.) I mean, the man has flaws, but there were some great things about Bill Clinton. And finally, Trump plays a role here too – not the one he’s in now, thank god, but one that felt inconsistent with the rest of the book. (Sittenfeld does portray him pretty accurately, though.)

Overall, Rodham was a very good read. It kept my attention and I’ve been thinking about it a lot since I finished it. I will read anything Sittenfeld writes, but I did seek this one out and was particularly excited to read it. It’s well-researched and never boring. And it will certainly get you riled up by the end, angry at the way women are treated in politics, the double standards and the extra hoops women jump through that men don’t even think about.

I listened to Rodham on audio and the narrator Carrington MacDuffie did an excellent job. She sounded kind of like Hillary – articulate, precise and rational. This was a take-the-phone-in-the-shower listen for me.

Rodham was Book #22 of 2020.

BEA 2013 Report

bea-logoI am en route home from a whirlwind two days at BEA, which was the overwhelming, amazing experience that it always is. I had a great time walking the floor, going to some publisher parties, and reconnecting with the book blogger community. We have a lot of longevity among us  – this summer, EDIWTB turns 7! I can’t believe it. Most of all, it is just fun to be around so many other people who simply love books.

Some highlights:

  • Breakfast with a bunch of very cool audiobook narrators. I had a chance to ask all of my burning questions about narration, and met some very nice people at the same time. June is Audiobook Month, so look for some audiobook-related content on the blog.
  • Meeting some of my favorite authors, including Lauren Grodstein, Curtis Sittenfeld, Christina Baker Kline, and Meg Wolitzer. Some of them said, “Oh, I know your site!” upon meeting me, which was definitely a thrill. I was too shy to say hi to Tayari Jones, and didn’t want to wait in line for Scott Turow to sign his book (though I did get a copy), but I talked to Rob Sheffield about the Rolling Stones and got a hug from Caroline Leavitt and met Wally Lamb, so that’s good.
  • Hanging out with my host, Nicole of Linus’s Blanket, in her apartment in the beautiful West Village, and talking books late into the night.
  • Getting my daughter’s favorite author, Wendy Mass, to sign her fall book.
  • A lovely breakfast today at the home of Adriana Trigiani, a book blogger favorite who is new to me. She generously welcomed a bunch of us into her beautiful home in the Village this morning for breakfast and conversation.
  • Parties at Penguin, HarperCollins, Workman, and Simon & Schuster – fun!
  • 2 great sessions at BEA – one on Goodreads and a panel on how digital book sales is reviving the backlist market. Laura Lippman and Lizzie Skurnick were on the panel, and they were both entertaining and full of good thoughts on the publishing business.

And, of course, the books.

I have a lot of books making their way to me via media mail. I will do a post with pictures when they arrive. The one I am most excited about is Curtis Sittenfeld’s Sisterland, which is due out later this month.

So that’s the quick wrap-up, with more to follow! Oh, and I finished a book, so I will have a review up soon too.