Saturday, July 15, 2006

First Families: The Impact of the White House on Their Lives

This book will be forever associated in my memory with the day David had his wisdom teeth out. I read it start to finish (more or less) in one day while I waited for the surgery and then nursed David through the first day of recovery. But I digress.

What would it be like to live in the White House? For some it was the highlight of their lives; for others it was a nightmare. This book by Bonnie Angelo examines the effect that life in the White House had on the families that have come and gone over the years, annotating her anecdotes with extensive references for the scholarly reader, but with a conversational tone for the rest of us.

The information is arranged by topic, without consideration for chronology. Religious observance touches on LBJ, Nixon, the Carters and George W Bush; the next page dives into FDR's swimming pool, later removed by Nixon. Birth and death, raising children and pets, romances, marriages, fashion, entertainment, high society, tragedies, scandals, and interior decoration are all addressed with charm and candor.

The treatment is relatively even-handed; Jefferson and Eleanor Roosevelt are often referenced, but Lou Hoover, Nancy Reagan, Edith Roosevelt and Helen Taft appear frequently as well. Dolley Madison, Jackie Kennedy, and the Lincolns, yes, but also the Grants and the Hoovers, and even such footnotes as the Fillmores and the Fords.

I enjoyed it; trivia in narrative form is a favorite of mine, and I am a White House afficionado. I'm not likely to read it again, but I certainly don't regret this time.

(By the way, my favorite book about the White House is Flowers, White House Style by Dottie Temple and Stan Finegold. Ms. Temple did flowers for the White House for years, and her insights on the White House, and entertaining behind the scenes, are fresh and unique.


Post a Comment

<< Home