It is rare that I commit to post on two blog tours in one day, but when the invite for Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld came my way there was no way I was going to miss out on this one!!! Having read and enjoyed The American Wife several years ago, I was keen to throw myself back into US politics Sittenfeld- style! Huge thanks to Anne Cater for another stunning opportunity to read and review.
Rodham is a fictionalised account of Hillary Clinton’s life, but with one important twist…
You see, for a start, Hillary isn’t called Clinton…because crucially, she never married Bill.
It is this decision which lies at the heart of this story and which may just be the key to the shaping of Hillary’s future career in politics.
The first part of the book follows Hillary’s childhood and adolescence as she grows up in the 50’s and 60’s. Intelligent, driven and ‘awfully opinionated for a girl’ Hillary is destined for great things. She impresses both at Harvard and then Yale, where she meets Bill.
The attraction is instant and enduring. It is meeting of both minds and physical attraction. For a woman who has continually found that her intelligence has been a barrier to any meaningful relationship, Hillary is somewhat overwhelmed by the fact that this tall, charming and vibrant man is declaring his commitment to her.
Bill, it is fair to say, is a man of extreme appetites! Certainly he soaks up knowledge and experience but his sexual conquests seem to be wide and far reaching. The novel does not shy away from divulging and detailing this aspect of their relationship, and it is here, after a while, that the alarm bells start to ring.
The early years of Hillary’s life and career, ‘ The Bill Years’, if you will, are broadly factual. Believe me this novel will have you reaching for Google on a regular basis to separate fact from fantasy! Things start to branch away from ‘real life’ when Hillary decides that Bill’s sexual appetite and continued infidelity is just too much for her to live with, despite their deep intellectual and emotional connection.
From this moment onwards her work is her focus and the trajectory of her political career is up for grabs. The following decades see her rise through the political spectrum, meeting a few familiar faces along the way. The book ends with her final chance to run for President. And her opposition will take you completely by surprise!
This is a page turning portrayal of a savvy, accomplishment woman battling and rising through a predominantly male oriented world. Hillary’s determination to further not only own career but the lot of American women in general is one of the novel’s mainstays.
The continued casual and debilitating sexism, in the home and the work place, is depressing but sadly not surprising. The campaign trail is portrayed as a tough and lonely route to travel, particularly for a women who is under constant scrutiny in a way her male counterparts never are. Appearance is king; policies are all too often second to hairstyle and clothing choices. When Hillary is forceful in her address, crowds begin to chant ‘Shut her up’, a throwback to the recent Trump/ Clinton campaign where cries of ‘Lock her up’ rang through the media.
Here is a fascinating if some what disturbing insight into American’s political system. A system where only those who either have money, or the backing of people with money, have a chance of running for President. Where your every move is watched, nothing is forgotten and the past can come back to haunt you at anytime. Your only hope is how good your ‘team’ is at adding the necessary spin to any given eventuality.
The characters that populate this novel are vivid and plentiful . Some are familiar, some are factual but their voices all burst forth from the page. Love or loath the man, Donald Trump is here, very definitely making his presence felt, although not in the way you might expect. Curtis Sittenfeld has his voice nailed. Be warned dear reader, Donnie will be booming from the book in all his questionable glory.
If you want a page turner this Summer, this is it. There is just the right about of humour, pathos and let’s face it, sex to make this pretty hard to put down. As we head towards the next American election, grabbing our popcorn as we go, Rodham gives us the opportunity for a wry smile and a potential ‘If only’ moment.
And there is more…
For more reactions to Rodham check out the rest of the tour. Details below…