Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld,Friday 12/01/20


Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld,  presenter Katharine Claringbull
Zoom meeting.  We were 13 and a half people (one was able to listen but not participate!)
The premise of this book is that it’s the fictional biography of a real person - Hillary Rodham Clinton. The first half of the book is true but fictionalised, the second half is what might have been if she hadn’t married Bill, therefore totally fictionalised… apart from the true bits, that is! The author admires Hillary, and the book is a sort of wish fulfilment, or fan fiction.
The majority of the group were rather disappointed in the book, especially the first half. Phrases used were ‘trashy’, ‘icky’, ‘in bad taste’, ‘bad portrait of Hillary’, ‘did Hillary no service’, ‘demeaning’, ‘made her seem stupid’. Sometimes it was difficult to distinguish fact from fiction, although this part of the book does seem to have captured the spirit of the relationship between the two Clintons.
We felt that the second half was better written, although not very believable, and did not reveal much of Hillary’s reputed warmth, humour or personality. Bill, on the other hand, came off even worse!
The question that occupied us considerably was the reality of the relationship between Hillary and Bill, which of them held back the other, and whether they had a deal - his career first, then hers. She definitely suffered from having his bad behaviour as part of her baggage, but equally she gained from having public exposure as the wife of a rising politician and then of the President.
We see the book as making a political statement in pointing up the differences between the way men and women are treated in public life. It puts the question, what could or should have been for this extremely well-qualified woman? In the book, Hillary becomes President.

Rosie x