Summary and book reviews of White Houses by Amy Bloom

White Houses

by Amy Bloom

White Houses by Amy Bloom X
White Houses by Amy Bloom
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2018, 240 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 6, 2018, 256 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kate Braithwaite

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About this Book

Book Summary

The unexpected and forbidden affair between Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok unfolds in a triumph of historical fiction from the New York Times bestselling author of Away and Lucky Us.

"I never envied a wife or a husband, until I met Eleanor. Then, I would have traded everything I ever had, every limo ride, every skinny dip, every byline and carefree stroll, for what Franklin had, polio and all."

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.

"Amy Bloom knows the urgency of love," wrote The Washington Post about Bloom's acclaimed bestseller Away. The same could be said of White Houses, an unforgettable novel about the power of passion and the endurance of love.

Chapter 1
Luck Is Not Chance

In 1932, my father was dead and my star was rising. I could write. People looked for my name. I'd gotten a big bounce from The Milwaukee Sentinel to New York because I was the only woman to cover Big Ten football playoffs and the excellent Smith scandal (idiot corset salesman and buxom mistress cut off the head of her husband and hide it in the bathtub). I had hit it hard in Brooklyn, at the Daily Mirror and moved on to the Associated Press. I had a small apartment, with a palm-­sized window and a bathroom down the hall. I owned one frying pan, two plates, and two coffee mugs. My friends were newspapermen, my girlfriends were often copy editors (very sharp, very sweet), and I was what they called a newspaperwoman. They ran my bylines and everyone knew I didn't do weddings. It was good.

The men bought me drinks and every night I bought a round before I went home. They talked about their wives and mistresses in front of me and I didn't blink....

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. White Houses is a fictional account of relationships and events that happened from the 1930s to the '60s. Did any historical information in the book interest or surprise you? Did you know anything about the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, the affair between Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok, or FDR's affairs before reading the book?
  2. Lorena had a very difficult childhood, filled with poverty, violence, and uncertainty. Eleanor's childhood was also fraught with violence and uncertainty, but she still had every opportunity and comfort, because she was a Roosevelt. How do you think their backgrounds affected who they became as adults, in both their personal and professional lives? Did it affect the dynamics of their relationship?...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Although Eleanor and Hick's story is tethered by their re-connection in New York after Roosevelt's death, at times the movements back and forth in their life histories are hard to keep track of and the narrative feels rather rudderless. The novel lacks plot and suspense. As the portrait of the life-long love of one woman for another, however—a love the reader hopes, although is not certain is returned in the same measure—White Houses is genuinely moving.   (Reviewed by Kate Braithwaite).

Full Review Members Only (588 words).

Media Reviews

Library Journal
Starred Review. An original, richly textured, and beautifully written love story.

Booklist
Starred Review. Hick's outrage over the trauma inflicted on gays and lesbians, the class divide, the beauty quotient, and the gender double standard fuels this socially incisive, psychologically saturated, funny, and erotic fictionalization of legendary figures; this novel of extraordinary magnetism and insight; this keen celebration of love, loyalty, and sacrifice.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. Bloom elevates this addition to the secret-lives-of-the-Roosevelts genre through elegant prose and by making Lorena Hickok a character engrossing enough to steal center stage from Eleanor Roosevelt.

Author Blurb Melanie Benjamin, author of The Swans of Fifth Avenue
[L]ove is what this book is all about: It suffuses every page, so that by the time you reach the end, you are simply stunned by the beauty of the world these two carved out for themselves.

Author Blurb Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife
In Lorena Hickok's unforgettable voice, she brings an untold slice of history so dazzlingly and devastatingly to life, it took my breath away. Easily, the most intimate, crackling, and expansive rendering of Eleanor Roosevelt in print, and, more than this, a dizzyingly beautiful tale of what it means to be human, and what it is to love.

Reader Reviews

Karen

White Houses
I found the book offered very little that was "new" to me. Bloom's style of writing, going from flashbacks to the present and back again, was at times a bit confusing. It was difficult to care very much about Hick.

Dpfaef

White Houses
White Houses Is the story of the romance between Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok. Both women in their own way had very sad lives. Eleanor because she lived in the shadow of FDR and Hickok because of her brutal early life. While the romance was...   Read More

lani

an inflamed passion
Historical fiction has the ability to allow one to imagine the underpinnings of a relationship while focusing on real historical events or characters. Amy Bloom has concentrated on Roosevelt's relationship with Lorena Hickok which historians still ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The Loves of President and Mrs. Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt had long been a key figure in her husband, Franklin Delano Roosevelt's, political career. When he became President, she transformed the role of the First Lady. She was a vocal and vociferous advocate for human rights and in particular, the rights of women and children. She wrote a popular newspaper column "My Day," and was active in helping the poor and fighting racial discrimination. After her husband's death, President Truman appointed Eleanor Roosevelt to the United Nations. She was given further appointments by President John F. Kennedy, serving her country faithfully until her death in 1962.

But in the partnership of two exceptional public servants there were significant difficulties. In 1914, FDR embarked on an ...

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