“Where is Dolley Madison when we need her? Catherine Allgor makes clear that Mrs. Madison's skills as a hostess and politician held the country together when rabid partisanship threatened to tear it apart. This is a well-told biography of a true nineteenth-century celebrity, but a celebrity with substance, savvy and courage.” Cokie Roberts, author of Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation
“For some time Dolley Madison has been a beguiling ornament, flashing her femininity in the parlors of the early American republic. Here, at last, Catherine Allgor, with great style and wit, recovers a different Dolley, a full-fledged political partner with James Madison. Now, in addition to John and Abigail,we have James and Dolley.” Joseph J. Ellis, author of His Excellency: George Washington
“A lively, clear-eyed account of a master politician. As first ‘Presidentess,' Dolley Madison established herself among our earliest female celebrities and left an enduring mark on American culture. Hers is a rousing tale of ambition, gossip, and policy, told with empathy and understanding by Catherine Allgor. ” Stacy Schiff, author of A Great Improvisation
“Before Jackie Kennedy there was Dolley Madison - elegant, sophisticated and charismatic. Thanks to her inimitable style and determination, the nation's capital became more than just a swampy outpost where pigs and politicians freely roamed. In A Perfect Union Catherine Allgor reveals the warm and fascinating woman who dazzled Americans for more than three decades.” Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire
Writing about Dolley Madison (1768-1849), one is all too tempted to paint her as a modern; perhaps as a Federalist-era Jacqueline Kennedy, elegant, cosmopolitan, tactful; or as a proto-feminist born centuries too soon. Catherine Allgor's subtle portrait of the wife of our fourth president demonstrates that such forced parallels are unnecessarily; Dolley's skills as a savvy hostess and a charming diplomat require no contemporary counterpart. As the award-winning author of Parlor Politics notes, Madison's sensitivity to local politics registered even on her wallpaper; in her Virginia home, she favored French décor; in Washington, she adopted more nationalistic tastes. An elegant biography of an influential First Lady.
Twomey's dulcet tones smooth out the sharp edges of Allgor's biography of Dolley Madison, her polished reading lulling listeners into pleasant reverie of the American political past. Allgor's book itself is not always so pacific, concentrating on the era of instability and violence surrounding the War of 1812, and Dolley's influence on her husband, James Madison, and the new American capital that she reigned over as First Lady. Twomey occasionally sounds like an announcer in a prescription-drug commercial, employing her most soothing tone to read off a list of potential side effects, but the effect is pleasant, her reading serving to calm the storms of the past, smoothly sailing over the choppy waters of the American early 19th century. Simultaneous release with the Holt hardcover (Reviews, Jan. 23). (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Dolley Madison, wife of James Madison, the fourth President of the United States, was, through her salon and dinner parties, an influential, behind-the-scenes politician during America's early years. A Perfect Union is not only a fascinating biography of a charming, savvy, and beautiful woman, it is the detailed story of the growth of America, its early customs and political wrangling. Madison defined the role of First Lady and was able to tread the thin line between being an impressive aristocrat who could rival any lady in the courts of Europe and a simple, homespun American. Anne Twomey's narration is uneven; at times her enthusiasm and enjoyment of the book come through, while at other points her voice becomes a monotone. Recommended for the biography sections of academic and public libraries.-Ilka Gordon, Park Synagogue Lib., Pepper Pike, OH Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
No union is ever perfect. Yet it's not a stretch to consider Dolley Madison the perfect First Lady, "a bridge between presidential dignity and democratic accessibility."As Allgor (History/Univ. of California, Riverside) details, Dolley and James Madison certainly enjoyed an uncommonly good partnership, perhaps against the odds. He was 43 and she 25 when they married, he retiring, she fond of the social swirl; James-Allgor puts himself on a first-name basis with the founding couple-"resided most comfortably in the theoretical realm, happiest when composing or untangling complex political theories," while his wife was a master of practical diplomacy. She put her skills to work early on, when James became Thomas Jefferson's secretary of state; one of the more newsworthy aspects of this book is its revelation of Jefferson's misogyny and poor manners, which resulted in more than one diplomatic flap, especially when they were combined as in the wonderfully complicated "Merry affair," which almost caused new warfare between the fledgling United States and England. So skillful was Dolley at repairing some of the damage Jefferson did that she even managed to fly under his radar, even as he sternly condemned other women active in Washington politics. Dolley also forged a diplomacy of the dining-room table that brought together feuding Federalists and Republicans; "by welcoming all and making her house the place to see and be seen, Dolley also upped the social ante, making society even more necessary to politics in the capital city." So it was when she became First Lady, taking charge of making a White House worthy of the name, soon to be burned by the British in the War of 1812, in which sheemerged as a national hero. Allgor also credits Dolley with skillful campaigning that saved her husband's bid for reelection in 1812. A welcome life of a woman who deserves greater representation in history books.