Book Review

Fiction reflecting reality of Clintons

BOOK-REVIEW
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Summary

  • Rodham is a novel, not about what if Secretary Clinton had won in 2016. It’s definitely a ‘what if? book.
  • But author Curtis Sittenfeld had the audacity to create his version of Hillary Rodham who’s the brilliant woman that falls in love with but never marries Bill Clinton.

As America is about to hold an election to determine who will become the next so-called ‘leader of the free world’, this is a time when many pundits are speculating who that person will be.

It’s also a time when some will reflect back nostalgically on ‘what might have been’ if Donald Trump had lost the last election and instead, Hillary Rodham Clinton had won.

Rodham is a novel, not about what if Secretary Clinton had won in 2016. It’s definitely a ‘what if? book. But author Curtis Sittenfeld had the audacity to create his version of Hillary Rodham who’s the brilliant woman that falls in love with but never marries Bill Clinton.

Reconstructing his own idea of Hillary’s voice, Rodham is a fictional ‘autobiography’ about a smart and sassy little girl from a middle-class Chicago suburb who was gutsy, opinionated, and outspoken from the word go. Self-aware that she is no great beauty, she is nonetheless, always number one in her class. But she never has boyfriends who respect her intellect. Never, that is, until she meets Bill Clinton at Yale Law School.

Hillary and Bill’s lusty relationship takes up a good chunk, early in the book. But then, after she recognises his womanising ways, and he informs her it’s an addiction he cannot curb, Hillary breaks off their engagement and leaves.

So, while one gets the feeling that Sittenfelt stays true to Hillary’s spirit up to that point, it’s after she leaves Bill that the fiction flows. Bill will remain the love of her life, but she is nothing if not a pragmatist. She knows she would forever be fretting about his infidelity. But in fact, it is Bill who insists she go for her own good.

The rest of her life is filled with teaching and politics. We see the way she gets into politics, strategically runs for state Senator, and wins, and eventually runs several times for president of the USA.

Meanwhile, Bill becomes the governor of Arkansas, then a Steve Jobs-kind of Silicon Valley millionaire. He marries several times, gets caught in several sex scandals, and periodically pops back into Hillary’s life.

There’s no doubt that Hillary and Bill had once found a soulmate in one another. But there is also no doubt their differences were irreconcilable.

One thing they both have in common is political ambition. Bill’s ambition seems based more on male ego, while Hillary’s seems grounded in a legal career of service not only as a law professor but as a legal aid lawyer assisting children, the disabled, and the poor.

What’s fascinating is the way they both end up running for the US presidency at the same time. It’s an eventuality that doesn’t seem inevitable as the story progressed.

But then, when the charismatic Bill and the persevering Hillary end up debating one another right before election time rolls around, the outcome is a shocker.

Read the book to find out who finally wins in this intriguing political fantasy.