Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld
This one teased me in book shop windows but it took me a hot second to realise Rodham was fiction and not, in fact, a biography. Talk about judging a book by its cover.
Readheads, this is one of the cleverest stories I have read for a very long time and the question on the front gives the premiss away …’what if Hillary hadn’t married Bill?’
Good right? What if?
I got completely swept up in the story of Hillary not being married to Bill (who is portrayed as a real ass) and it was only 3/4 of the way through I wondered what Hillary might actually think of this story? You are so in her body and her head and you are literally cheering her on, only to realise, mid sentence somewhere around page 213 this story is really, really r.e.a.l.l.y not kind to Bill at all, and therefore, maybe it is not that kind to Hillary either.
As this epiphany hit, I felt a little queasy.
To say the author creates a heroine of Hillary is an understatement (hoorah) but it is done in way that essentially minimises and dismisses and criticises her most important choice (arguably) in real life. I really felt bad when this hit me and I felt sad for Hillary.
It plays to an exchange – imaginary or not, who knows – between First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and President Bill Clinton where they are back in Little Rock and see an old boyfriend of hers driving a garbage truck. Bill cheekily, and arrogantly says, ‘Gee Hillary, I wonder where you’d be if you married him?
‘I’d be married to the President of the United States Bill’, she responds.
I actually went to see her when she came to Australia a couple of years ago because I am rather in awe of her guts and simply because of what she represented in my living history. Seeing her on stage, thinking of the rooms she’d sat in as US Secretary of State, the battles fought and prejudices overcome, well, it was thrilling and worth the kidney I sold for my daughter and I to share the same air with her for 90 minutes.
Not everyone will share this view and that is OK. Ain’t democracy and the freedom of choice sweet that way.
In terms of great reads – which is why we’re all here after all – apart from my moral quibble, this book is a beauty and my daughter who read this first, wept at the end of it. It is powerful, fast paced, genius and I think perhaps an insight into what Hillary might really be like. She is woman, hear her roar and all that good stuff and if you love politics and the rough and tumble like me, don’t waste another second reading this review by me, leave now and get a copy quickly.
I just couldn’t help but think reading it, I was loving her and judging her at the same time. I can almost hear her say, ‘Whatever Ms K. More judgement, what’s new? I have seen and heard it all before honey, don’t worry yourself.’ And with that, she would walk onward past me, head held proudly skyward wearing of course, a signature cornflower blue pants suit.
But that is just my two cents worth.
Oh, and yes, Trump makes a cameo….or two…..