Monday, May 4, 2009

Book Review: American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld



Well, the happy side effect of all this waiting is lots and lots of time to read. I just finished American Wife this weekend. For those of you who don't know, American Wife is a roman-a-clef (a fancy way of saying a fictionalized biography using different character names) of Laura Bush. Honestly, I was a little skeptical when I started reading. I wasn't, ahem, a huge fan of the Bush administration. Anyways, I give you the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Good: The book is very well-written. I was impressed with the way Sittenfeld captured the voice of both Charlie (GW) and Alice (Laura). I imagine one of her biggest challenges in writing this book had to be accurately capturing the voice of two very public figures and she absolutely nailed it. I was surprised to find both characters likable, entertaining and sympathetic. The truly incredible thing about this book is that though it follows a couple's journey to the White House, more than anything else it's a love story. And you find yourself rooting for the Bush family...er...I mean, the Blackwell family, the entire time.

The Bad: The book did get a little slow in spots and I had a hard time getting into it at first, but about 100 pages in, it really starts to pick up pace.

The Ugly: I now feel like I know Laura Bush personally. Um...clearly this isn't true and Sittenfeld has gone out of her way to remind readers that this is a fictionalized account of her life, but I want to believe that it's all true. I love the portrait of Laura/Alice that Sittenfeld painted and for me, Laura and Alice are now one in the same.

I'd definitely recommend this book regardless of whether you supported or criticized GW's administration. I also think it would make a fantastic book club pick. So much of this book is about the choices we make as women and how those choices indelibly impact our life and identity.

3/4 Stars.

My Ever-So-Sophisticated Rating System:
4 Stars = I skipped Gossip Girl to keep reading.
3 Stars = I watched Gossip Girl, but I skipped Bravo reality TV to read.
2 Stars = If the only thing left on my TiVo was the Hills, I'd read this.
1 Star = I'd actually rather watch the Hills than read this book.

23 comments:

Alea said...

I really liked this book! Actually the beginning, her childhood was one of my favorite parts hehe! Love your rating system!

Nisa said...

It sounds like a fascinating read and I loved your rating system as well!

Windsong said...

This looks like a great book. Thanks for the recommendation!

Litgirl01 said...

You are too funny! Skipped Gossip Girl! LOL Thanks for the review! ;-)

Tara said...

Love your rating system!

PurpleClover said...

BUWAHAHAHA. I love the rating system! Thanks for the recommendation. (wow skip Bravo? MUST be good!)

Kimberly Derting said...

BEST rating system ever!

bec-fitzpatrick said...

You have the BEST rating system!!! I'll rec the book to my BC. We need some new suggestions.

Solvang Sherrie said...

Love the rating system! Looks like something I would read when I'm in the mood for a grown up book :^)

Little Ms J said...

I love the rating system! I'm curious. Will it change when you take on that new show with the rich kids?

sraasch said...

Okay, LOVE your rating system. Genius.

Hardygirl said...

I've been wondering whether I should read this one. I heard Curtis Sittenfeld speak here in Oxford after she wrote Prep (which I liked . . hmm, with your rating system, I'd have to put it in the 2/3 range). So . . now, I think it might be the perfect summer read.

And, I have to say that whoever designs her covers is awesome.

sf

Lisa and Laura said...

Whoo hoo! Our rating system is a hit! Glad you guys like it.

I want to hear from you guys after you've read the book. I'm so mad that I didn't read it with a book club because there's so much to discuss.

Alea - I think the book really started with her trip to Chicago as a teenager. Sort of a rude awakening for her, right?

LMJ - Yes, something tells me that show is going to totally reconfigure our rating system. I'll know after I see the premier whether or not I'll need to add a 5th star, but it seems likely.

SF - I read Prep and enjoyed it, but totally agree with your 2 rating. It was good, but not great. The cover was genius though. Pink and green? It's one of those covers I'll never forget. I like the cover for American Wife too, but I think the Prep cover was genius.

Alea said...

Yes, Chicago was an interesting part! For some reason I really liked when she was a little child! My least favorite part was when she was first lady HA!

slhastings said...

I LOVE your rating system, but I must admit (on a public forum) that I have too many books on my list. Is that bad???

Lisa and Laura said...

Alea - Just read your review of the book. So funny that we both loved the book, but for different reasons. It's interesting to read some of Sittenfeld's other reviews, I think they were a little harsh. I mean, the books was well-written and very entertaining. Sometimes I wonder what people are looking for in a book!

Lisa and Laura said...

Sam - My TBR list is HUGE right now. Of course I'm plowing through it because I don't really have much else to be doing right now. Although I think tomorrow we're going to get our new website template, so that will be a good distraction!

Alea said...

I think people are looking for an author to read their mind haha! Have you read Prep, I thought it was completely different from American Wife! I need to re-read it because I can't remember how I feel about it.

Lisa and Laura said...

Yes, Alea, I read Prep a couple of years ago and I remember being slightly underwhelmed. It's funny that she got all the critical acclaim for the book and I didn't like it nearly as much as American Wife. Shows what I know! I do love the cover of Prep though. It was very Lily Pulitzer.

Alea said...

Hahah! Have you read her other one, that one I still need to read!

Lisa and Laura said...

Nope, haven't read the other one. I also feel like we're IM-ing via the blog right now which is sort of hilarious. I seriously need to get a life.

Alea said...

HAHAHA!

christinefonseca said...

Okay...so I have to say I LOVE your rating system!!!