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Reader Reviewed
American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

Sarah Broadhurst's view...

January 2015 Guest Editor Harriet Evans on American Wife...

Ooh, this book is so good. I’m saving it to reread for when I really need it. It is so absorbing, so sweeping, and yet it is also so intricate and beautifully written. It is a really important book I think and it should have won every prize going. (If it had been written by and about a man I bet it would have). Alice Blackwell is a quiet girl from the Midwest who happens to become First Lady and this is her story and if you haven’t read it, I envy you coming to it for the first time.

Sarah Broadhurt's view...

This is an absolute joy to read. It follows the life of an ordinary American girl, with a teenage tragedy hanging over her, who falls for an ambitious, rich and privileged boy whose sights are on the White House. It is actually based on Laura Bush’s life, I’ve no idea how faithfully for it concentrates on her small-town upbringing by a hardworking mum and a wacky lesbian grandmother. We go right through to the White House, but this is not a political novel, it is a magnificent family drama.

Comparison: Audrey Niffenegger, William Kowalski, Jonathan Franzen.

If you like Curtis Sittenfeld you might also like to read books by Kim Edward, Tom Wolfe and Elinor Lipman.

Who is Sarah Broadhurst

Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion Phylippa Smithson of our Lovereading Reader Review Panel was also delighted to share her review with us.'

  • Phylippa Smithson - 'I was a bit daunted by the challenge of a 600+ page book but the words flowed, the characters become ever more real and the experience was wonderful!
    Based on the fictional account of a former US Pesident's wife – read for yourself and see if you guess right as to who – this really is a very unique book.  
    Alice has a rude awakening to the reality in life in her late teens when, as a result of a car accident in which she was the guilty party, she walks away but the victim, who also happens to be a boy she was meeting to be partner to at a party, is killed outright.
    This experience defines her life as an individual but when she falls for a 'play-boy' who is son to a former US governor and has led a life where money really does seem to grow in trees, she grows from being a regimented individual who leads a very quiet and almost reclusive life, to President's wife.
    The journey that gets her there is full of twists and turns but never far from her mind throughout is the reality of those early years.
    Brilliant.  Engaging.  Already missing Alice who has been a part of my recent life as I flew through those 600+ pages.'


American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

In the year 2000, in the closest election in American history, Alice Blackwell’s husband becomes president of the United States. Their time in the White House proves to be heady, tumultuous, and controversial.

But it is Alice’s own story - that of a kind, bookish, only child born in the 1940s Midwest who comes to inhabit a life of dizzying wealth and power - that is itself remarkable. Alice candidly describes her small-town upbringing, and the tragedy that shaped her identity; she recalls her early adulthood as a librarian, and her surprising courtship with the man who swept her off her feet; she tells of the crisis that almost ended their marriage; and she confides the privileges and difficulties of being first lady, a role that is uniquely cloistered and public, secretive and exposed.

In Alice Blackwell, Curtis Sittenfeld has created her most dynamic and complex heroine yet. American Wife is not a novel about politics. It is a gorgeously written novel that weaves race, class, fate and wealth into a brilliant tapestry. It is a novel in which the unexpected becomes inevitable, and the pleasures and pain of intimacy and love are laid bare.

Browse inside this book


'My favourite book of the year.' Kate Atkinson

'You don't need to know that its heroine is based on First Lady Laura Bush to be drawn immediately into this quietly riveting parable...Thought-provoking, entertaining and full of subtle reflections on class and marriage' Daily Mail

'A powerful, utterly compelling and strangely moving fictional account of a First Lady who bears more than a passing resemblance to Laura Bush' Daily Mirror

'I was utterly absorbed in this story of a political marriage and a wife who has her own reasons. Curtis Sittenfeld has thrown a powerful light on small town America and its misunderstood values.' Linda Grant, Booker shortlisted author of The Clothes on Their Backs

About the Author

Curtis Sittenfeld

Curtis Sittenfeld is a graduate of Stanford University and the Iowa Writer’s Workshop where she was taught by Marilynne Robinson. As well as four bestselling novels, Curtis has also written for publications such as The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, The Guardian, Glamour and Time magazine, where she interviewed Michelle Obama.

Author photo © Josephine Sittenfeld

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Book Info

Publication date

7th March 2009


Curtis Sittenfeld

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Transworld Publishers Ltd


640 pages


Family Drama
Literary Fiction
eBook Favourites

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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