Tuesday, 13 February 2018

#BookReview White Houses by Amy Bloom @AmyBloomBooks @randomhouse

White Houses by Amy Bloom
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lorena Hickok meets Eleanor Roosevelt in 1932 while reporting on Franklin Roosevelt's first presidential campaign. Having grown up worse than poor in South Dakota and reinvented herself as the most prominent woman reporter in America, "Hick," as she's known to her friends and admirers, is not quite instantly charmed by the idealistic, patrician Eleanor. But then, as her connection with the future first lady deepens into intimacy, what begins as a powerful passion matures into a lasting love, and a life that Hick never expected to have. She moves into the White House, where her status as "first friend" is an open secret, as are FDR's own lovers. After she takes a job in the Roosevelt administration, promoting and protecting both Roosevelts, she comes to know Franklin not only as a great president but as a complicated rival and an irresistible friend, capable of changing lives even after his death. Through it all, even as Hick's bond with Eleanor is tested by forces both extraordinary and common, and as she grows as a woman and a writer, she never loses sight of the love of her life.

From Washington to Hyde Park, from a little white house on Long Island to an apartment on Manhattan's Washington Square, Amy Bloom's new novel moves elegantly through fascinating places and times, written in compelling prose and with emotional depth, wit, and acuity.


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I first read about Lorena Hickok and Eleanor Roosevelt last year when I read Loving Eleanor by Susan Wittig Albert. It's a fabulous book, deep and well researched. And I loved it. So, when I learned about White Houses by Amy Bloom was I curious about how it would be. I'm glad to say that this one is also very good, well-written and engrossing.

I'm fascinated by the Roosevelt family and even though FDR is my favorite do I find Eleanor Roosevelt to be such an interesting woman. This book is a fictional take on Eleanor's relationship with Lorena Hickok. It's an engaging tale, where we get to Lorena's POV of her growing up with fan abusing father, her time at a circus and of course her first interview with Eleanor that starts off a love affair.

However, I did feel that, despite the wonderful portrayal of the characters, and the compelling dialog that the story lacked the depth that Loving Eleanor had. I miss some parts from Loving Eleanor, like for instance how their relationship was put an end by FDR because they were a risk to the presidency. I never really got the sense of what happened to them in this book. Lorena moved out from the White House and was involved with another woman. And, then that relationship ended. Sometimes the story just felt a bit disjointed. But, that's perhaps the point, although it did feel like Lorena jumped from thought to thought in her recollection of her relationship with Eleanor.

If you want a tragic love story is this book great. There are several wonderful memorable scenes that I loved like Lorena last meeting with Franklin. Or in the beginning when Eleanor arrives at Lorena's place after Franklin's death. I think that Amy Bloom did a wonderful job of describing the book's characters.

I want to thank Random House for providing me with a free copy through NetGalley for an honest review!

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