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American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

American Wife (2009)

by Curtis Sittenfeld

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2,8612072,995 (3.66)221
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Showing 1-5 of 208 (next | show all)
review for the audiobook edition.

so... wow. this was not good. i really enjoyed sittenfeld's book eligible, find her a treasure on twitter, and so many of my GR friends have read and loved american wife. so i went in optimistically hoping for an interesting read. i'm not sure if the audiobook is the issue, or if the book is just not for me? but... ugh!

as much as i really dislike giving up, i actually quit on this one at the 30% mark because, a) i didn't really enjoy the voice of the narrator; and b) i could not take any more of the awkward sex scenes. i don't read a lot of novels featuring sex -- not because i am against this, but because writing this type of scene/moment is really difficult to do well, and every time i encounter one in fiction i wonder what the actual hell went down between writer and editor that resulted in terrible, clichéd, sexual clumsiness.

if you are going to read this novel, i suggest the paper edition, and i hope you have a better experience than i did.
  Booktrovert | Oct 15, 2018 |
There are so many times I almost stopped reading this book - it was tedious and written in excruciating and unnecessary detail- but I pushed through, hoping for some twist or climax further along. Unfortunately the most engrossing and climactic part of the book occurs in the beginning when the protagonist, Alice Blackwell nee Lindgren, is still a young girl full of independence, promise, and ambition. That girl is lost to a dull, passive, weak-willed, and ultimately jaded wife and then First Lady as the story progresses. I did not enjoy her character. It was interesting to read and consider the complex intersections of personal beliefs and public persona and of commitment to your marriage v. commitment to your morals and/or country as well as the morality of speaking out against something with which you inherently disagree v. the complicity of idly standing by. This is even more relevant in today’s political climate than it was in 2008, and I consider Alice’s to be a cautionary tale. Still, this could have been distilled down to far fewer words. ( )
  Lysie522 | Aug 30, 2018 |
Wow, Laura Bush had a lot of sex as a young woman.

Just kidding . . . kind of.
I would never have read this novel based very loosely on the life of Laura Bush if it hadn't been for a "book friend" of mine who loves Curtis Sittenfeld. Though the book has some flaws, I'm very glad I read it and it was a perfect summer read. In fact, I found this novel compulsively readable and flew through all 555 pages in a matter of days.

The book is told in four sections and each one contains one true life event of Laura Bush and the rest is fictionalized around it. The first section is her teenage years and a car accident where she kills a friend of hers in another car after running a stop sign. The second section is based around her time as a public school librarian. The third is her marriage to "Charlie Blackwell", aka George Bush and his alcoholism. The fourth is her time in the White House.

This book works really, really well when you just stop worrying about what is true and what isn't and think of it as a woman in her 60s looking back at her life - describing her mistakes, problems, luck, friendships, etc. In fact, for most of the book, I didn't think of this as being about Laura and George Bush at all. The first three sections were really excellent. The last section gets more political and there is lots of hand-wringing about whether or not she should publicly disagree with some of her husbands policies and some of her past comes back to haunt her. This section I found the least satisfying. I wondered if Sittenfeld just had a harder time imagining this section because there was too much info out there that already created a picture. I think the author had much more freedom in the earlier sections and that worked really well. One other mistake, I thought, was that she set the action in the early sections in Wisconsin instead of Texas. Being pretty familiar with Wisconsin, a lot of the action didn't seem to fit with the setting. Several times I found something jarring and thought, yeah, that's cause that sort of thing would make more sense in Texas.

Anyway, I really liked this and found it pretty fun to read. It came out in 2008 and is probably the kind of book that you either read when it came out or you'll never read, but if it's still lingering on your shelf, give it a try. I found it a pleasant surprise. ( )
1 vote japaul22 | Jul 1, 2018 |
Well-written grammar and prose-wise, but not a very interesting story. I could not get into it and the not-so-thinly veiled faux-biography of Laura Bush aspect did not sit well with me. I enjoyed it until the teenage Laura started acting a bit out of character, when I dropped it and decided it wasn't worth continuing. ( )
  kimreadthis | May 29, 2018 |
The entire time, I kept thinking: this book is as dull as dry toast. When will it ever end? And I plodded along because it was a Book Club read. Why Sittenfeld wanted to extensively bore her readership is beyond me. Alice came across as prim, spineless and uninteresting. Her only real quality was her incredible diplomacy, which would have been lovely to see at work during her time as First Lady. Alas! The one really fascinating time of her life was glossed over in a 100 pages (out of 600).
The writing is academic - focused on action and not character with occasional ridiculous flourishes that clashed with instead of enhanced the story. It seemed I was reading: and then this happened, and this happened... on and on.
Overall a huge disappointment. I will not be seeking any of Sittenfeld's other novels. ( )
  Cecilturtle | Jan 15, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 208 (next | show all)
Sittenfeld, author of Prep, has written an intelligent, bighearted novel about a controversial political dynasty. It's also the summer's most delicious read, a book you can guzzle like a cold, creamy milk shake.

“American Wife” is most engaging in its early chapters, when Alice Lindgren isn’t yet Alice Blackwell but an insecure young woman, haunted by the memory of the beautiful boy she’d accidentally killed as a girl yet dedicated to teaching and to a life defined by books. After she meets Charlie Blackwell and becomes his helpmeet, her independence swallowed up in his ambition, Alice seems to lose definition and, especially in the novel’s final, weakest section, titled “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,” to become a generic figure of celebrity proffering bromides to an adulatory public.
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Didn't want fame, but
husband did. Public smiles with
hidden inner thoughts.

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On what might become one of the most significant days in her husband's presidency, Alice Blackwell considers the strange and unlikely path that has led her to the White House--and the repercussions of a life lived, as she puts it, "almost in opposition to itself." How can she both love and fundamentally disagree with her husband? How complicit has she been in the trajectory of her own life? What should she do when her private beliefs run against her public persona?--From publisher description.… (more)

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