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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Secret Lives of the First Ladies: What Your Teachers Never Told You About the Women of the White House

Secret Lives of the First Ladies: What Your Teachers Never Told You About the Women of the White House

1 rating: 1.0
A book by Cormac O'Brien

From the author of our popular Secret Lives of the U.S. Presidents comes another rambunctious look at White House history—and this time, women are in the spotlight. Secrets Lives of the First Ladies features outrageous and uncensored profiles of … see full wiki

Author: Cormac O'Brien
Publisher: Quirk Books
1 review about Secret Lives of the First Ladies: What Your...

Much better ... for what it is

  • Sep 16, 2005
Rating:
+1
I didn't think Cormac O'Brien's previous book, "The Secret Lives of the U.S. Presidents," was worth a lot. Though some reviewers raved about how he brought forgotten presidents "to life" for them, I still fail to see the point in bringing William Henry Harrison "to life" if all you know about him are a couple of People Magazine irrelevancies. Combine that with conventional political sneers breezily delivered and you've got perfect modern history-writing.

"Oh lighten up. It's all in fun." Okay: If you liked the author's last dive into hip, ironic, personality-driven history, you'll probably like this one. In fact, I found it less objectionable because the relative historical anonymity -- even insignificance -- of most American first ladies fits better with the author's interest in trivia in the first place. (I recall one newspaper editor gushing about Jacqueline Kennedy not long ago, saying something to the effect that she was "the first first lady to go to college, the first one to have lived overseas, the first one to speak a foreign language!" None of which is even remotely true.)

While O'Brien largely glossed over most of what was important in the presidents' terms in office, his thumbnail biographies of the first ladies tend to be balanced and fairly comprehensive. And although he still gets his digs in at Nixon, Reagan, and George Dubya, his chapters on Mrs. Nixon, Mrs. Reagan, and Mrs. Bush (both of them, actually) are fair and even sympathetic.

I'm not sure precisely who the target market is for this book. But if people in that demographic are seeking lightweight reading that tells them a little bit, maybe, about American history and politics, then I suppose this will suit them well enough.

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