Wednesday, July 8, 2009

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

I really wanted to hate this book. First of all, I wasn't interested in reading a thinly veiled fictionalized version of a famous person's life, especially not a currently living famous person. Second, I was not interested in a sympathetic portrayal of George W. or Laura Bush. And, third, the book was written by Curtis Sittenfeld.

I really love Sittenfeld's writing. But.

In high school, I was enchanted by the idea of boarding schools. She applied for scholarships and went to one. All my life, I've wanted to be a writer. She started selling her stories when I was still thinking vaguely about what I'd want to write someday. I love NPR. She writes for This American Life. I wasn't a feminist until I read her essay "Your Life as a Girl" in college and realized that she even writes my own life experiences better than I do. We're about the same age, but she's done everything both first and better than me. She's like a slightly younger, much smarter, hipper, and more talented big sister. Feh.

So I didn't want to like American Wife. And of course it was fabulous. Sigh.

I even identified with the main character. For heaven's sake, she was modeled on Laura Bush! Blast and tarnation.

One of my book clubs discussed this book tonight and we all liked it. My complaint: Part 4 was less powerful than the rest of the novel. I think this was partially because it was written in the present tense and partially because it was based on current events that we all know much more about and the politics got a little ahead of the story. I didn't feel the intense emotional connection with Alice Blackwell's character that I felt in the earlier sections. In fact, I found myself picturing Laura Bush's face as the narrator talked about dealing with fame. These criticisms do not outweigh the wonderfulness of the rest of the book.

It's a good book. Read it and let me know what you think!

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