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.
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.
It’s hard to believe this is a work of fiction as it reads like a highly believable biography. Broken down into three parts the first part 1970-74 gives an insight into a young Hillary from her graduation speech at Wellesley to attending Yale Law where she meets fellow law student Bill Clinton. The second part is 1991 and the sliding door moment of Hillary turning down Bill’s third proposal. What follows next in part three is the alternate reality.
The author really shows how Bill’s charisma and Hillary’s intellect make exceedingly good bedfellows and the chemistry between the two is palpable. Beware, the sex scenes are something else and not something I personally wanted to picture. As they are two very real people that are well known it’s a bit like thinking of your parents having sex eurgh. Putting that aside though you can see how their attraction is very much a meeting of minds and ambition.
For me though it was part three that really hit home how dirty politics is and the lengths people go to for power. Razorgate throwing in sexual harassment and sexual orientation claims leading to a fake set up date tipped off to the media to gain popularity. It gave an insight into how much goes on behind the scenes to handle situations like these but that honesty and an apology is always the best course of action.
Trump comes across, well as Trump really, still tweeting and still not knowing when to keep his mouth shut but it’s Bill who comes across as worse. Politics in America is shown as being very much a man’s world and the fact that they have never had a female president is testament to that. For women it’s a lose lose battle, have children you aren’t up for the job, don’t have children what is wrong with you? What type of woman would rather have a career in politics than a family? Couldn’t she find a husband? The internal feminist in me seethed at those lines.
I like formidable, driven ambitious women but like a lot of women I never understood why she stuck with Bill especially after the intern scandal. She has brains and could have gone far on her own. This book shows just how far….
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.
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