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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Ever wonder about life behind closed doors at the White House? Or the unknown power wielded by first ladies? Kati Marton's Hidden Power: Presidential Marriages That Shaped Our Recent History shows us how presidential marriages often make for gripping stories. Hard to put down, this is a book that goes well beyond slick portraits and invented lives.
The White House has always held its secrets. But we learn from Hidden Power that 20th-century American presidential politics is no place for the squeamish. Extraordinary women have needed strength and courage to survive, thrive, and grow through the ordeal.
Marton takes on 12 administrations -- from Wilson to Bush the Elder -- sharing stories that range from that of antifeminist Edith Wilson, who literally ruled the nation behind closed doors as her husband lay ill, to the women who have had to deal with presidential infidelity as a matter of course: Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackie Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, and Hillary Clinton. Each of the four first ladies dealt with it differently, and each went on to forge her own legacy and earn our respect.
The most conventional story of the 12 turns out to be that of the Trumans, who remained true to their middle-class roots. The most inspiring is that of Eleanor Roosevelt, who represents for many a pioneer feminist whose work and contribution inspired generations of women who followed her. The saddest is the wretched story of the Nixon marriage, and Pat Nixon's virtual abandonment by a man married only to politics and power. The stories we know best are the Kennedy and Clinton tales; although in this context they seem less like aberrations and more like representations of a "normal" virus that infects presidential politics in America.
Hidden Power is well written, balanced, and a great read, making life in the White House seem less a dream to pursue than a nightmare sane folks should avoid at all costs. Elena Simon