American Wife Video Book Review
That's right y'all! I have decided to expand The BelleBeat to include video reviews of some of my favorite books, as well as new releases. Before picking up a copy of Laura Bush's autobiography Spoken from the Heart, here's a few thoughts on another book she inspired: American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld, author of Prep.
Tags: Laura Bush Curtis Sittenfeld books book reviews politics prep americana history
Added: 3 years ago
[scene opens with a woman speaking directly to the camera]
BUNNYB: With the recent release of Laura Bush's new biography "Spoken From the Heart," I thought it would be a great idea to take a look back at another book she inspired ... "American Wife," by Curtis Sittenfeld.
BUNNYB: While it's not exactly a confirmed biography, it's clear that Laura Bush's life inspired the heroine in Sittenfeld's book, Alice Blackwell. From the time that she was a small-time librarian in Texas, to meeting her husband, and then their political rise up towards the White House.
BUNNYB: It was interesting to me the way Sittenfeld was able to give a voice and give more personality to a woman who many of us saw on a regular basis on TV, but rarely heard from nearly as much as our current First Lady, Michelle Obama.
BUNNYB: Laura always had differing views from George. This was something we knew, but was never something that was brought to light. After all, what kind of political statement would that make?
BUNNYB: Nonetheless, Sittenfeld's able to give life to her and tell her story, and her side of their political rise, showing exactly what it's like for the woman who marries a politician.
BUNNYB: So until you get a chance to pick up Laura's new book ... mine is already on it's way from Amazon!
BUNNYB: Take time and read "American Wife," I guarantee you won't regret it.
Sittenfeld's third novel, called American Wife (2008), is the tale of Alice Blackwell, a fictional character who shares many similarities with former First Lady Laura Bush. In the novel, Blackwell is an only child who grows up in a Democratic family. As a high school student, Blackwell kills a friend in an auto accident. She also has an illegal abortion and discovers that her grandmother is a secret lesbian. She meets, falls in love with, and marries the wild son of an elite Republican family. Her husband rises in politics to the office of president, and, although Blackwell staunchly disagrees with her husband's politics, she continues to love him.
American Wife: A Novel
Curtis Sittenfeld (Author)
Release date: February 10, 2009
A kind, bookish only child born in the 1940s, Alice Lindgren has no idea that she will one day end up in the White House, married to the president. In her small Wisconsin hometown, she learns the virtues of politeness, but a tragic accident when she is seventeen shatters her identity and changes the trajectory of her life. More than a decade later, when the charismatic son of a powerful Republican family sweeps her off her feet, she is surprised to find herself admitted into a world of privilege. And when her husband unexpectedly becomes governor and then president, she discovers that she is married to a man she both loves and fundamentally disagrees with–and that her private beliefs increasingly run against her public persona. As her husband's presidency enters its second term, Alice must confront contradictions years in the making and face questions nearly impossible to answer.
There's no question that Laura Bush provided the inspiration for protagonist in Curtis Sittenfeld's upcoming novel, "American Wife." And although the tale Sittenfeld concocts is almost pure fiction, there's enough of the first lady in it to already have created a sensation in Washington, D.C.
Radaronline.com called "American Wife" "a thinly veiled novel based on Laura Bush's life that is sure to send the White House into a fury."
A review of the plot synopsis and several lurid excerpts posted on Radar's site show why. Alice Blackwell, the title character, is a single child who grows up to be a librarian. A Democrat, she falls for the roguish son of a privileged family of Republican bluebloods. As a high school student, she kills a classmate in a traffic accident. As a young woman, she has an illegal abortion and discovers her grandmother is a lesbian. And she describes in graphic detail sex with the president of the United States, a man whose policies she comes to utterly disagree with but whom she continues to love.
The sex scenes, which are too graphic to reprint here, include a loving description of the presidential plumbing and musings on his "cute little butt."
"On the gossip front, the novel doesn't disappoint," writes Radaronline.com. "Alice's antics are sure to have tongues chattering from coast to coast."
One such episode involves discovering her grandmother's secret love for a female doctor. In one of the Radaronline.com excerpts, Alice narrates:
"...I stepped instead into the living room, and just before I crossed the threshold, I heard my grandmother's laughter, and just after I heard her laughter, I saw her sitting on Dr. Wycomb's lap, kissing Dr. Wycomb on the lips.
"Dr. Wycomb was dressed in a burgundy silk bathrobe; my grandmother was wearing a beige bra and a beige half-slip trimmed with lace. She was facing Dr. Wycomb, and their mouths were open a little and their eyes were closed, and the kiss went on for several seconds and had not yet stopped when I backed out.... I had to leave the apartment; there was no alternative.
"[...] Approaching the nearer vase, I pushed aside the greens and then I vomited-hideously, pungently, gloriously - into the vase's depths."
Sittenfeld, a young novelist schooled at the Iowa Writer's Workshop, has published two best-sellers: "Prep," a tale of prep-school life that has been called an updated and female version of J.D. Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye," and "The Man of My Dreams." Critically praised, she's shown a talent for taking real people and places and dressing them up in fictional clothing.
Facts and fiction
She does that with Alice Blackwell, taking some actual facts about Laura and President Bush and then letting her imagination run wild. Laura Bush actually was a librarian, and, as a 17-year-old high school girl, she ran a stop sign in rural Texas and crashed into another car. The occupant, a highly popular athlete and her classmate, was killed.
Buoyed by those few facts, readers are expected to gobble up the rest in the book, which is being published by Random House in time for the Republican National Convention in early September.
The synopsis on the publisher's Web site hints at the conflicts faced by Alice Blackwell:
"As Alice learns to make her way amid the clannish energy and smug confidence of the Blackwell family, navigating the strange rituals of their country club and summer estate, she remains uneasy with her newfound good fortune. And when Charlie eventually becomes President, Alice is thrust into a position she did not seek - one of power and influence, privilege and responsibility. As Charlie's tumultuous and controversial second term in the White House wears on, Alice must face contradictions years in the making: How can she both love and fundamentally disagree with her husband? How complicit has she been in the trajectory of her own life? What should she do when her private beliefs run against her public persona?"
Amazon.com, which is offering the $26 novel for $17.16, offers two jacket blurbs. The first, by Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Richard Russo, says: "Curtis Sittenfeld is an amazing writer, and 'American Wife' is a brave and moving novel about the intersection of private and public life in America. Ambitious and humble at the same time, Sittenfeld refuses to trivialize or simplify people, whether real or imagined."
Novelist Kurt Andersen also offers and endorsement: ""What a remarkable (and brave) thing: a compassionate, illuminating, and beautifully rendered portrait of a fictional Republican first lady with a life and husband very much like our actual Republican first lady's. Curtis Sittenfeld has written a novel as impressive as it is improbable."