Tuesday, November 8, 2016

First Women - Kate Andersen Brower

First Women
It's Election Day! This seemed an incredible appropriate book to share with you today. Regardless of your political perspective, the privilege of voting should not to be taken for granted. Take a moment in the midst of the craziness today to be thankful both for our rich presidential history and the fact that this election cycle is finally over!

Title: First Women: The Grace and Power of America's Modern First Ladies
Author: Kate Andersen Brower
Publication Date: 4/12/16
Pages: 400
How I Found It: I read Brower's previous book, The Residence.
Date Completed: 10/12/16

Summary: The First Lady is an immense presence in the American zeitgeist. She stands as an emblem of what it means to be an American woman and wife. Each of the women who has served in this role has brought her own personality and beliefs to the position. Bower takes a look at the modern First Ladies (Jackie Kennedy onward) and how each of them handled the task.

What I Thought: I read Brower's previous book, The Residence, last year and greatly enjoyed it. I have always been fascinated by the first families and their stories, so this book seemed like a natural next step for both Brower and myself.

As with her first book, Brower takes each chapter topically, rather than working chronologically. This bugged me at first with The Residence and this book as well. However, by mid-way point of each, I had settled into Brower's rhythms and can concede that her method works well. While it's not typical for a book like this to be organized thematically, it functions smoothly. It does lead to a few anecdotes being repeated, but that's the only real downfall. 

Brower really digs deep in her research. She seeks out the fascinating details that don't often make the media or the history books. For instance, the Carters hired a nanny, Mary Prince, who was on leave from Georgia prison; President Carter served as her parole officer and she lived with them in the White House. It's tidbits like that which kept me reading and enjoying each chapter. 

Brower is not in the business of salacious gossip. While she doesn't shy away from history or tough subjects (such as presidential affairs or conflict between first ladies), she also seems to purposefully tone down the drama. She's giving the reader the facts in a straight forward way, not in the tone of whispers at a society luncheon. I appreciate that. I mean, I like knowing the inside scoop, but I really like that she still approaches the women and their stories in a respectful manner. It feels like a good balance. 

The book is really well done and, once again, I look forward to Brower's future projects. She does such fine work and reading her books truly feels like an inside perspective because of some of her sources. 

Quote I Loved: "While big men know the needs for self-control and restraint - little men are sometimes moved more by fear and pride." - Jackie Kennedy

Rating: ★★★★☆
Will I Re-Read: Probably not, but I'll keep reading Brower's books and other works about First Families.
Other Books By Kate Andersen Brower: The Residence

A Reduced Review: Brower offers a detailed, up-close perspective on the lives of our modern first ladies; it's fascinating and enlightening and worth reading.

1 comment:

  1. You moved to North Carolina just in time to experience us become a Presidential swing state. It hasn't been that way that long. When Obama took North Carolina the first time he ran, and almost got it the second time, the Dems. realized they could force the Repubs. to spend a lot of time in what had been one of their safe red states instead of investing effort in other more traditional swing states.