Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: curtis
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
review 2021-07-24 19:35
Kingdomtide - Rye Curtis

The premise of this story hooked me right away, despite the fact that I did not love a good number of the characters. I immediately felt for Cloris, the 72-year-old survivor in this story. Perhaps that’s a function of my perspective as I age—love to see a story of grit and determination from an unexpected source. Her story was compelling and distracted me from some other less-credible storylines. The atmosphere of the story was so well-developed that the mountains and surrounding forest were almost as compelling a “character” as the others. Reading some other reviews, I tend to agree that the crew of rescuers that I would normally describe as quirky may be better described as motley... Regardless, Cloris’ story will provide hopeful, gripping drama.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2020-06-22 17:35
A fresh take on a familiar life
Rodham: A Novel - Curtis Sittenfeld

What is the value in alternate history? For most writers, alternate history provides an opportunity to play “what if?” games with the past, to imagine how much different the world would be had events turned out differently. For others, it serves as a sort of literary funhouse mirror that can be used to comment on the world in which we live, in subtle or sometimes not-so-subtle ways. In the hands of a very few authors, however, alternate history can become an acute form of character study, one that can use changes in circumstance as a means to considering questions of who we are as people and the ways in which our lives are shaped by the choices we make.


Curtis Sittenfeld’s novel is an example of the latter category. In it she offers a fictionalized account of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s life, one that is altered from the one we know by her decision to break off her relationship with her soon-to-be husband Bill just after his failed election to Congress in 1974. No longer tied to his fate, Hillary Rodham goes on to forge an independent life of her own as a law school professor, activist, and United States Senator. These changes are chronicled in a narrative centered around three key periods of Rodham’s life: her time with Clinton at Yale and in Arkansas, the point when her political career begins while that of her former lover’s ends, and her climactic bid for the presidency. In each of them, events unfold involving a mix of historical, fictionalized, and fictional characters, with Hillary Rodham at the center of them.


In most works of alternate history, the focus of such a story would be on how a change in one moment transformed the subsequent course of history. In Sittenfeld’s hands, though, her premise becomes a means of providing a new look at a long-known personality. So many of the controversial associations are stripped away: gone is Whitewater, the Rose law firm, the health care plan of her husband’s presidency, and everything that follows. What’s left is the author’s assessment of who Hillary Rodham is as a person and the choices that person might have made free from a decision so pivotal to the arc of her life. Some of what happens is familiar, much of it is not, but all of it is true to that conception. In this respect Sittenfeld manages something extremely difficult to achieve: a fresh take on an ostensibly familiar figure.


Yet this novel isn’t just a reexamination of the Hillary Rodham we think we know. As Bill Clinton once declared, we get two for the price of one, as we see how her decision impacts his fate as well. In the first part of Sittenfeld’s novel, we see Clinton at his most charming, affable, flirtatious, and stimulating. Not only does it define his character, but it helps us to understand what Rodham saw in him as well, as well as why she agreed to become Hillary Clinton. Absent that choice, Bill Clinton’s life undergoes a different trajectory as well, one that illustrates the role she played in his success. Without Hillary, certain aspects of Bill Clinton’s character emerge in ways that define his life very differently from the history people remember, which then goes on to have its own impact on the events described in the novel.


Nevertheless, while Sittenfeld’s commentary on Bill Clinton is oftentimes sharp, her focus never wavers from her protagonist. The result is a novel that gives its readers a discerning meditation of one of the most important figures of modern times, one conveyed through the story of a life that she very well could have lived. In the process, Sittenfeld demonstrates one of the underutilized possibilities of a genre better known for using counterfactuals to consider different outcomes of major events than to better understand controversial personages. I doubt that others will follow her example, though, as her achievement in writing an alternate history novel that is both a perceptive character study and an entertaining work of fiction will be extremely difficult for others to emulate.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2020-06-21 00:40
Reading progress update: I've read 232 out of 432 pages.
Rodham: A Novel - Curtis Sittenfeld

After nearly a hundred pages detailing how Hillary Rodham ran for Senate in 1992, Sittenfeld jumps forward another twenty-three years to describe her presidential campaign. I need to take a break to get some work done, which is proving even more challenging given the timeline she presents at the start of the next chapter:


1988: George H. W. Bush and Dan Quayle

1992: George H. W. Bush and Dan Quayle

1996: Jerry Brown and Bob Kerrey

2000: John McCain and Sam Brownback

2004: John McCain and Sam Brownback

2008: Barack Obama and Joe Biden

2012: Barack Obama and Joe Biden

I am really trying to puzzle out exactly how this timeline is supposed to work. In Sittenfeld's novel, Hillary Rodham rather than Carol Moseley Braun becomes a United States Senator by defeating Alan Dixon in 1992. No problem there. Only Braun went on to lose her bid for re-election six years later, and the Republican who defeated her was replaced after a single term by . . . Barack Obama.


So if Hillary Rodham holds that seat from 1993 onward, how does Obama become president in 2008?

Of course, there are any number of plausible scenarios that would make this work, such as Obama becoming Illinois's governor in 2002 rather than a United States senator four years later. But my need to discover how Sittenfeld works it out is gnawing away at me. I really hope she does work it out, too, because otherwise it's just a disappointingly sloppy piece of plotting. the problem is that I need to get some work done, so I have to wait at least a few hours before discovering how (and hopefully not if) she addresses it.

Like Reblog Comment
text 2020-06-20 23:46
Reading progress update: I've read 177 out of 432 pages.
Rodham: A Novel - Curtis Sittenfeld

I'm past the divergence point in the novel, and I'm enjoying the book more now that the story is becoming less familiar. It's fun and a little sad, though I can't tell if the latter is what Sittenfeld intends or if I'm just reading that into it.

Like Reblog Comment
text 2020-06-20 22:00
Reading progress update: I've read 76 out of 432 pages.
Rodham: A Novel - Curtis Sittenfeld

This is proving a really interesting reading experience. From what I read, Sittenfeld's account of Hillary Rodham's life prior to her acceptance of Bill Clinton's marriage proposal is factually-based, so I'm reading those chapters as a historical novel. Yet I can't help but wonder: how much of it did she make up? Did she take conversations wholesale from memoirs or did she extrapolate from her biography? It's an exercise that is equal parts engaging and exasperating, as to parse it successfully requires knowing more about Hillary Rodham Clinton's early years than I do now.

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?