Friday, June 24, 2016

FIRST FAMILIES AND THE WHITE HOUSE

Sometimes called an American Downtown Abbey The Residence by Kate Andersen Brower is a fascinating treasure trove of recent history about the first families who lived in the White House and the staff that served them. Not a gossipy collection of oft-repeated stories, this the work of an experienced journalist, a former White House reporter, who interviewed many of the participants, some of whom spoke publically for the first time.

The book covers the Kennedys to the Obamas and tells about the housekeepers, butlers, electricians, chefs, kitchen staff and door men that served them. Readers will enjoy finding out the answers to such questions as which first family was most beloved by the staff and which first family was the most difficult. The Residence gives a bird’s eye view of the White House geography and explains the public spaces and the private living quarters and where the staff interact. Some of the most interesting information has to do with the meals the first families eat. Families must pay for all their food and that of their personal guests and how some families had specific tastes and others happily ate whatever was prepared. And, the book is also revealing about the staff, who sometimes work from morning until 2AM and who sometimes must use every ounce of diplomacy to be of service.

Ms. Brower’s second book is First Women, an intimate look at the First Ladies from Jacqueline Kennedy to Michelle Obama. The author interviewed several of these women and tells their personal stories and how they protected their husbands and families from the outside world. Raising children in the White House is another topic. Of great interest is the warm relationships the first ladies share, despite their varying politics.  This second title is not a repeat of the first and will equally fascinate.

Both books, which can be found at the Monrovia Public Library, are exceptionally interesting and entertaining for individuals and book groups.


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