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Friday, May 15, 2015

The Residence...Review by the Doctor

About the book:
A remarkable history with elements of both In the President’s Secret Service and The Butler, The Residence offers an intimate account of the service staff of the White House, from the Kennedys to the Obamas.

America’s First Families are unknowable in many ways. No one has insight into their true character like the people who serve their meals and make their beds every day. Full of stories and details by turns dramatic, humorous, and heartwarming, The Residence reveals daily life in the White House as it is really lived through the voices of the maids, butlers, cooks, florists, doormen, engineers, and others who tend to the needs of the President and First Family.

These dedicated professionals maintain the six-floor mansion’s 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, 28 fireplaces, three elevators, and eight staircases, and prepare everything from hors d’oeuvres for intimate gatherings to meals served at elaborate state dinners. Over the course of the day, they gather in the lower level’s basement kitchen to share stories, trade secrets, forge lifelong friendships, and sometimes even fall in love.

Combining incredible first-person anecdotes from extensive interviews with scores of White House staff members—many speaking for the first time—with archival research, Kate Andersen Brower tells their story. She reveals the intimacy between the First Family and the people who serve them, as well as tension that has shaken the staff over the decades. From the housekeeper and engineer who fell in love while serving President Reagan to Jackie Kennedy’s private moment of grief with a beloved staffer after her husband’s assassination to the tumultuous days surrounding President Nixon’s resignation and President Clinton’s impeachment battle, The Residence is full of surprising and moving details that illuminate day-to-day life at the White House.

As someone who grew up British, but is now an American, the White House holds kind of a fascination for me. It is intriguing both as a seat of power, and also as a symbol of freedom.

I looked forward to reading this book because, like most people, I kind of like the “behind-the-scenes” reality. However, if you thought that Downton Abbey was sometimes “stretching the borders of realism”, I think you would be amazed at some of the stories that come out of the White House.

Maybe someone should do a television show about that, because I think it would be fascinating, and probably somewhat terrifying.

What struck me most about this book was the absolute dedication of the staff who run the White House, and who stay long after the incumbent President leaves. Their stories make up a considerable portion of this book, and they are every bit as fascinating, and more human, than some of the Presidents who lived there. The staff behind-the-scenes have to dedicate their lives in the service of the President, in some ways almost as much as the Secret Service. Some of them lost spouses and other good opportunities to work at the White House, and the stories of how their lives were swallowed up in the scheduling desires of the incumbent President and First Lady was mind blowing, and almost disturbing.

One of the stranger, and less satisfying aspect of this book was to read and realize just how much the President and First Lady (both Democrat and Republican) are willing to make life difficult for the house staff, just to satisfy their own personal desires that have little to do with the office which they hold.

From Presidents having affairs to Presidents being naked in front of the staff, from First Ladies wanting a redecoration of the room to occur in a ridiculously short period of time to desiring floral arrangements that are “very specific”, it struck me that someone has to be pretty narcissistic to occupy the presidency. While that probably does not come as a shock to anybody, I came away from this book with a little less respect for some historical figures.

This was a fascinating read, and I enjoyed it great deal. I thoroughly recommend this book as a great afternoon of fascinating insights.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Kate Brower here. You can see other reviews and tour stops here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 5/15

* * * *
4/5 Stars

1 comment:

  1. The not so pleasant details like those revealed in this book definitely take the shine off some of our public figures, that's for sure!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.