Dolley: A Novel of Dolley Madison in Love and War

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From the delightfully provocative pen of bestselling author Rita Mae Brown comes a fresh and fascinating new novel that breathes life into one of this country's best-loved legends... She's the wife of the fourth president of the United States; a woman with merry blue eyes and black curls, who adores parties, the latest French fashions, and the tender, brilliant man who is her husband. In the whole of this young nation, there are few people who don't like Dolley Madison and many who love her. Yet even as they ...
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Overview

From the delightfully provocative pen of bestselling author Rita Mae Brown comes a fresh and fascinating new novel that breathes life into one of this country's best-loved legends... She's the wife of the fourth president of the United States; a woman with merry blue eyes and black curls, who adores parties, the latest French fashions, and the tender, brilliant man who is her husband. In the whole of this young nation, there are few people who don't like Dolley Madison and many who love her. Yet even as they succumb to her charm, scarcely any realize just how complex she is. Only in the pages of her diary - as imagined by novelist Brown - can this courageous and impulsive woman fully reveal herself. And there we discover the real Dolley, exciting, human, and vibrantly modern. She is a woman whose Quaker upbringing has taught her to abhor violence and to think of others before herself. She is a contented wife whose long-ago loss of her handsome first husband and beloved child taught her to cherish the past - but live in the moment. And she is a shrewd political helpmate who has learned to curb her tongue in the presence of friend and foe alike. All of these tough lessons have forged in Dolley a steely strength that serves her well when, in 1814, she faces her hardest trial: The fledgling United States is once more at war with arrogant, mighty Britain, and James Madison is the most hated man in public life. We first meet Dolley in a Washington simmering with rumors - political, social, and sexual. The British navy menaces the coast while the pigheaded secretary of war refuses to believe the nation's capital could be their target. Warhawks such as the charismatic Henry Clay and the opposition, led by the silver-tongued Daniel Webster, maneuver in and out of Congress. Dolley's quick wit shines a light on all of their shenanigans, as well as on those closest to her: Anna, her outspoken sister and confidante...Lisel Serurier, beautiful wife to the French minister and

Rita Mae Brown's fascinating recreation of the life of Dolley Madison is a masterful blend of fact and fiction. Dolley was the remarkable First Lady who had the President's ear and the nation's heart, a Washington hostess of world-renowned charm, and a legendary figure who barely escaped as her beloved city burned.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
If one can acquiesce to the rather leisurely pace of most of this fictional portrait of First Lady Dolley Madison, the payoff will be Brown's re-creation of Dolley's psychological, political and social insights into life in the nation's capital during the War of 1812. A combination of imagined first-person journal entries and third-person narrative, this work by the author of the considerably more racy Rubyfruit Jungle and Venus Envy took Brown eight years to research, though she admits she had to ``read between the lines''; an extensive bibliography is included. In Brown's portrayal, Dolley comes across as independent, perceptive, smart and emotionally strong. She is also depicted as witty--``the free press works in such a way that not one of us is free from it'': this from a woman about whom an eager-to-shock press spread false rumors concerning her friendships with men, particularly French political minister Louis Serurier. Those looking for romantic intrigue will not find it here, since Dolley is devoted to her husband. We do find political intrigue, however, as Madison's Republican administration meets with often nasty opposition by the New England Federalists, who do not support the war. This is a careful, endearing depiction of an admirable woman who, after her husband's death, spent much of her final 13 years tending to the restoration of Washington. (May)
Library Journal
Dolley Madison's vivacity and political shrewdness made her a dominant influence in her husband's presidency, and even after almost 200 years, she is still regarded as one of the most influential First Ladies. This novel describes in narrative form and fictional excerpts from Dolley's diary the year 1814, the lowest point of the War of 1812. Dolley must contend with problems ranging from uncertain finances to recalcitrant Federalists. She understands better than her husband the changing balance of power from those who fought the Revolution to the new young leaders. But first the British must be defeated and peace and the legitimacy of the United States confirmed. Brown (Bingo, LJ 10/15/88) knows how to combine the personal and the political in an attractive picture of Dolley. Recommended for general collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/94.]- Mary Ann Parker, California Dept. of Water Resources Law Lib., Sacramento
Marie Kuda
Brown turns to historical fiction, re-creating a critical year in the life of the fourth president's wife, who loved politics and her husband and who had a great gift for friendship. In 1814, Napoleon's war with Britain spilled into its former colonies, and redcoats marching toward underdefended Washington constitute the backdrop of Brown's slice of Dolley Madison's life. Brown vivifies the capital hostess and covert political manipulator's doings by interspersing snippets from an imaginary diary with the main narrative. In them, Dolley comments on James' struggles with dissension in his Cabinet and observes the machinations of Daniel Webster and the antiwar Federalists as well as of presidential wanna-bes in Madison's own Republican Party. As the year progresses, we watch Dolley mature from a feisty child's palpable hatred of the British and become--thanks to her sustaining friendships with women beginning with those in her Quaker family and continuing with beloved servants and Washington wives--a protofeminist with views on slavery decades ahead of her time. Brown breathes life into her historical characters, great and small, and into the politics that created the alliances that would eventually divide the country along the lines of regional economic interest. Brown's Dolley Madison is full-blown and vibrant, no longer a static silhouette on a cupcake wrapper.
From the Publisher
"Full-blown and vibrant."—Booklist

"[Dolley P. Madison] is revealed as an enchantingly imperfect First Ladyè. Eight years of research went into this book, and it shows. Brown's version of the day Dolley salvages the Gilbert Stuart portrait of Washingtonè is a humdinger."—Chicago Tribune

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553088908
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/1/1994
  • Pages: 400

Meet the Author

Rita Mae Brown is the bestselling author of several books. An Emmy-nominated screenwriter and a poet, she lives in Afton, Virginia.

Sneaky Pie Brown, a tiger cat born somewhere in Albemarle County, Virginia, was discovered by Rita Mae Brown at her local SPCA. They have collaborated on fourteen previous Mrs. Murphy mysteries: Sour Puss; Wish You Were Here; Rest in Pieces; Murder at Monticello; Pay Dirt; Murder, She Meowed; Murder on the Prowl; Cat on the Scent; Pawing Through the Past; Claws and Effect; Catch as Cat Can; The Tail of the Tip-Off; Whisker of Evil; and Cat’s Eyewitness, in addition to Sneaky Pie’s Cookbook for Mystery Lovers.

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