Very excited to be kicking things off on the first day of the Rodham blog tour! It’s been a while since a novel has incited such a rollercoaster of emotions in me. I mean this as a good thing! Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld is a fictional account – although it heavily references real events – of the life of Hillary Clinton. The Hillary Clinton in this book though, never marries Bill to become Clinton, she remains Hillary Rodham.
Opening sentence: There was a feeling I got before I spoke in front of an audience and sometimes also before an event that was less public but still important, an event that could have consequences in my life – taking the LSATs, for example, which I’d done in a classroom on the campus of Harvard.
Who is Hillary?
I can’t say I know a huge amount about Hillary Clinton, apart from the same few – mainly negative – headlines that were pumped out when she ran for president in 2016. I did always wonder why she was ripped apart for things that didn’t even compare to the deeds of Trump. An issue addressed in this book.
Rodham brilliantly tackles the bias and negativity Hillary (the real one) faced for simply having the audacity to be a woman. It explores how women are still held to account for things that men just get away with and how a strong woman in a male-dominated area such as politics has to deal with so much shit that her male counterparts don’t.
Maybe life isn’t about the absence of embarrassment, it’s about the mastery of embarrassment.
As the first woman to be a presidential candidate, Hillary will always have her place in history. She is also a divisive public figure – so much has been written about her and yet, what do we really know about her? This is why I like the idea of this novel. Yes, it’s fiction, but it is rooted in reality and gives us a version of insight into a unique woman and her political career.
What if things were different?
In Rodham, the story of Hillary’s life moves into fictional territory when she calls out Bill Clinton for his womanising ways and decides not to marry him, but is – and remains – deeply attracted to him. The novel is quite unexpectedly sexual, it delves deep into what makes Hillary tick and her character was so detailed and engaging that I had to remind myself I wasn’t actually reading a biography. (If only I was…) At its heart, the book looks at how much lives can change if just one decision is made differently.
The less you screw up, the more clearly the public keeps track of each error.
My knowledge of US politics is basic. Before Obama, I had no interest at all in the presidency race, but given the current (terrible) circumstances, we all have to have a vested interest. So, there was a lot of political chat in the book that went over my head a bit, but the storyline kept me hooked.
As this is a US election year, it automatically draws your mind to real political events and when the orange cretin Donny Trump pops up in the narrative, I actually had to fight waves of pure anger. Curtis Sittenfeld brilliantly uses Trump’s real batshit phrases and opinions here and cleverly gives us a version of events that showcases Hillary’s political prowess.
I was not expecting to find this read so powerful. More than any novel I’ve read, Rodham has such a cross-over into real – totally topical – events that it is instantly fascinating. It’s packed full of ‘what ifs’ that evoked such strong feelings for me; such a clever and lyrically written imagining of a very different political landscape.
And the ending, oh the ending. It gave me goosebumps and made me feel so achingly sad at the same time. Has the real Hillary Clinton read Rodham? I really need to know!
- Thank you Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inclusion in this tour;
- Snap up your copy here;
- Published by Doubleday 9th July 2020;
- 432 pages
- My rating:
About the Author:
In addition to Rodham, Curtis Sittenfeld is the author of the Sunday Times bestseller American Wife, in which she painted a picture of an ordinary American girl – a thinly-disguised Laura Bush – who found herself married to a President. It was longlisted for the Orange Prize, as was her debut novel Prep. Her other books are Man of My Dreams, Sisterland (a Richard & Judy Book Club pick), Eligible, and the acclaimed short story collection You Think It, I’ll Say It.
Her books are translated into 30 languages. She lives with her family in the American Mid-West.