For readers of The Paris Wife and The Swans of Fifth Avenue comes a "sensuous, captivating account of a forbidden affair between two women" (People)--Eleanor Roosevelt and "first friend" Lorena Hickok.
Lorena Hickok meets Eleanor Roosevelt in 1932 while reporting on Franklin Roosevelt's first presidential campaign. Having grown up worse than poor in South Dakota and reinvented herself as the most prominent woman reporter in America, "Hick," as she's known to her friends and admirers, is not quite instantly charmed by the idealistic, patrician Eleanor. But then, as her connection with the future first lady deepens into intimacy, what begins as a powerful passion matures into a lasting love, and a life that Hick never expected to have. She moves into the White House, where her status as "first friend" is an open secret, as are FDR's own lovers. After she takes a job in the Roosevelt administration, promoting and protecting both Roosevelts, she comes to know Franklin not only as a great president but as a complicated rival and an irresistible friend, capable of changing lives even after his death. Through it all, even as Hick's bond with Eleanor is tested by forces both extraordinary and common, and as she grows as a woman and a writer, she never loses sight of the love of her life.
From Washington, D.C. to Hyde Park, from a little white house on Long Island to an apartment on Manhattan's Washington Square, Amy Bloom's new novel moves elegantly through fascinating places and times, written in compelling prose and with emotional depth, wit, and acuity.
The Sexy Nerd ‘Revue’
This isn’t a novel I’d normally pick to read, but I saw it in O Magazine and I liked the synopsis I’d read. I’ve always heard whispers about Eleanor Roosevelt and a lover, but I never knew who the lover was. That is, until I read this book, White Houses.
“Coming out” wasn’t heard of back in Eleanor’s day, so being married to the president was one thing, but having a “chick on the side” was completely different. One thing I always found intriguing was if the President had any idea that his wife was gay, and if the reader didn’t know, Bloom outlines this perfectly.
White Houses will take the reader through a period of time when Eleanor meets Lorena Hickok, who was a reporter at the time, and falls madly in love with the writer. Their affair lasted for years, as each of the women struggled to find their own balance and truths in a world that would not be as accepting as some might be today. One thing this novel taught me is that the heart wants what it wants, and to deny it is a major injustice to one’s own soul. Bloom also explored an area that I’ve always been interested to know with respect to Lorena’s upbringing. It begs a question does a child’s circumstances play a pivotal role in their sexuality? And as the reader learns more about Lorena’s background, it will become clear why I asked the question.
Their love story goes pretty much like most love stories go. They shared the same problems that all couples have and go through. If you’re looking for a tell-all type of story wherein it reads like most reality shows we see on TV today, you’re picking up the wrong book. In fact, there were times I found the book to be quite boring, but in a good way. If that makes sense to some readers? In other words, if you’re expecting fireworks, this is not that novel. I feel Bloom did an exceptional job with this fictional story and she did her homework with the reading materials she was provided in telling this story.
I give White Houses five presidential waves. If you’re looking for a genuine love story at its finest, this story will do it for you. The reader will get to explore Eleanor and Lorena’s story like no one has ever before.