Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld (historical / speculative fiction)

Writing: 4/5 Characters: 4/5 (well written but I don’t like them) Plot: 3.5/5

An alternate history — what would Hillary Rodham Clinton’s life be like if she hadn’t married Bill Clinton. It certainly had its interesting points, but overall I was not a fan. If you ever had a positive thought about Clinton (Bill) before, you won’t after reading this (remember it’s fictional!) book. In this book, Bill is charismatic, intelligent, but ultimately unprincipled and an egotistical sexual predator full stop. Lots of sex scenes in the first part of the book — I guess to explain why / how Hillary fell in love with him to begin with — but the white powerful all-bad male trope pervaded the pages. While Bill’s womanizing would not be something I would enjoy in a husband, the real Hillary got to make her own decisions, frame her own life and choose to stay with her husband (who very much supported her career throughout his own). The fact that many women (Sittenfeld obviously included) decided she was wrong to do this — what business is it of theirs? This (obviously) irked me.

Lots of political strategy and maneuvering which isn’t my thing (but if it’s your thing you might enjoy this!). The best part for me was a very realistic reminder of what life was like for strong, smart women who were born just fifteen years before I was. I had it so much better, and my daughter lives in what feels like a completely different world. The book also served as a sad (to me) reminder of what the population seems to value in a candidate — charisma, good looks, etc. The high school popularity contest continues unabated…

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