What if Hillary Rodham had never married Bill Clinton? In this imaginative book, Sittenfeld imagines their early years together (based in fact)–and then veers. Instead of accepting Clinton’s third proposal, Hillary declines and moves ahead on her own.
She eventually makes her way into politics, following a similar but not identical path through multiple presidential runs. Her decision not to marry Bill affects his political career as well–and thus the fate of the country. Ending just after the 2016 election, this is yet more “what if” fodder for those of us still wishing for a different outcome.
An extremely compelling story that humanizes Hillary (maybe too much–some intimate scenes with Bill were uncomfortable) and has excellent narration. It’s definitely for fans of Hillary, but I couldn’t stop listening.
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In 1971, Hillary Rodham is a young woman full of promise: Life magazine has covered her Wellesley commencement speech, she’s attending Yale Law School, and she’s on the forefront of student activism and the women’s rights movement. And then she meets Bill Clinton. A handsome, charismatic southerner and fellow law student, Bill is already planning his political career. In each other, the two find a profound intellectual, emotional, and physical connection that neither has previously experienced.
In the real world, Hillary followed Bill back to Arkansas, and he proposed several times; although she said no more than once, as we all know, she eventually accepted and became Hillary Clinton.
But in Curtis Sittenfeld’s powerfully imagined tour-de-force of fiction, Hillary takes a different road. Feeling doubt about the prospective marriage, she endures their devastating breakup and leaves Arkansas. Over the next four decades, she blazes her own trail—one that unfolds in public as well as in private, that involves crossing paths again (and again) with Bill Clinton, that raises questions about the tradeoffs all of us must make in building a life.
Brilliantly weaving a riveting fictional tale into actual historical events, Curtis Sittenfeld delivers an uncannily astute and witty story for our times. In exploring the loneliness, moral ambivalence, and iron determination that characterize the quest for political power, as well as both the exhilaration and painful compromises demanded of female ambition in a world still run mostly by men, Rodham is a singular and unforgettable novel.