Dolley: A Novel of Dolley Madison in Love and War

Dolley: A Novel of Dolley Madison in Love and War

by Rita Mae Brown
     
 

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She had the president's ear and the nation's heart.

She's the wife of the fourth president of the United States; a spirited charmer who adores parties, the latest French fashions, and the tender, brilliant man who is her husband. But while many love her, few suspect how complex Dolley Madison really is.

Only in the pages of her diary—as imagined by novelist

Overview

She had the president's ear and the nation's heart.

She's the wife of the fourth president of the United States; a spirited charmer who adores parties, the latest French fashions, and the tender, brilliant man who is her husband. But while many love her, few suspect how complex Dolley Madison really is.

Only in the pages of her diary—as imagined by novelist Rita Mae Brown—can Dolley fully reveal herself. And there we discover the real first lady—impulsive, courageous, and wise—as she faces her harshest trial: in 1814, the United States is once more at war with mighty Britain, and her beloved James is the most hated man in America.

From the White House receptions she gaily presides over to her wild escape from a Washington under siege, Dolley gives us a legend ,made warmly human. For there has never been a first lady so testedèor one who came through the fire so brilliantly.

Editorial Reviews

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

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780553569490
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/28/1995
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
432
Sales rank:
330,644
Product dimensions:
4.31(w) x 7.00(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Rita Mae Brown is the bestselling author of the Sneaky Pie Brown series; the Sister Jane series; A Nose for Justice and Murder Unleashed; Rubyfruit Jungle; In Her Day; and Six of One, as well as several other novels. An Emmy-nominated screenwriter and a poet, Brown lives in Afton, Virginia.

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