Today I am delighted to be hosting the blog tour for Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld.
‘Awfully opinionated for a girl’ is what they call Hillary as she grows up in her Chicago suburb. Smart, diligent, and a bit plain, that’s the general consensus. Then Hillary goes to college, and her star rises. At Yale Law School, she continues to be a leader— and catches the eye of driven, handsome and charismatic Bill. But when he asks her to marry him, Hillary gives him a firm ‘No’.
The rest, as they say, isn’t history. How might things have turned out for them, for America, for the world itself, if Hillary Rodham had really turned down Bill Clinton?
With her sharp but always compassionate eye, Sittenfeld explores the loneliness, moral ambivalence and iron determination that characterise the quest for high office, as well as the painful compromises demanded of
female ambition in a world ruled by men.
Uncannily astute and witty in the telling, RODHAM is a brilliant reimagining – an unmissable literary landmark and truly a novel of ourtimes.
Wow, I really enjoyed this. It’s very well written, well researched and thought-provoking. It is of course fiction and a very good piece too. I aways find the ‘but what would have happened if’ scenario incredibly fascinating, Hillary Clinton is a success in her own right but imagine if she hadn’t married Clinton, hadn’t become First Lady – if she’d remained a Rodham. In a parallel universe perhaps it is so and perhaps it is just how Curtis has imagined it. Of course you could also say is that’s it about an ambitious young couple who fell madly in love but even love couldn’t keep them together in a world where secrets and infidelity can come back to haunt you at any time.
What I think this novel does is show the strength and intelligence behind the woman. A woman who would have become the first female President of the United States if it had been down to the popular vote in 2016. It doesn’t really matter if you love or hate the real Hillary Clinton, this book is about more than her. It highlights the sacrifices made for success and career development, sacrifices that are often not asked of men and also held against a woman for making them.
Curtis’ portrayal of Hillary is interesting, it doesn’t make her blameless – a champion of women who sets out to change the world. It shows her in all manners – vulnerable, formidable, courageous, weak and ambitious. I feel that this book does shine a light on her strengths. It also highlights just how difficult being a woman of political standing can be. From very young we see Hillary being shouted down by domineering males. But she stays standing, standing up for herself and for others – most of the time.
Parts of the book are based on real historical events and we see the early days of Hillary and Bill’s romance and then are diverted to the parallel world as instead of marrying Bill, Hillary leaves, heartboken, to pursue a life without him. A life that leads to her own personal success, sacrifices and ultimately a hostile fight for the White House. There is also an appearance by Donald Trump (Sittenfeld writes him brilliantly I thought).
Curtis’ Hillary is a fighter, she’s resilient and she makes mistakes along the way but generally she is honest. Politics is a dirty world and Sittenfeld certainly doesn’t sugar coat it here but it did make me think and I did revisit my own opinion of Hillary. Athough this is a work of fiction, there is a great deal of truth here. To be a woman in a position of power is tough. It always will be. Their will always be those (male and female) who are ready to ‘put you in your place’, to not give credence to your opinion. Hillary Clinton may have not have won her place a President but she sure did show that one day a woman might just get there.
Rodham is the first novel I have read by Sittenfeld, although a friend did recently gift me a copy of American Wife, I know very much look forward to reading that too.
Thank you to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and to the lovely team at Doubleday (aka Penguin) for providing me with a review copy.
Rodham is published on July 9th 2020 and will be available in hardback, audiobook and ebook.
About the author
In addition to Rodham, Curtis Sittenfeld is the author of the Sunday Times
bestseller American Wife, in which she painted a picture of an ordinary
American girl – a thinly-disguised Laura Bush – who found herself married to a President. It was longlisted for the Orange Prize, as was her debut novel Prep. Her other books are Man of My Dreams, Sisterland (a Richard & Judy Book Club pick), Eligible, and the acclaimed short story collection You Think It, I’ll Say It. Her books are translated into 30 languages.
She lives with her family in the American Mid-West.