Sunday, December 21, 2008

American Wife

Shallow. Within the 576 pages of Curtis Sittenfeld’s novel American Wife, an editor might have been able to carve out a fine 250 page book. Instead, readers have to decide how much time to devote to reading a novel that has more gimmick than insight. By basing the protagonist, Alice Lindgren Blackwell, on Laura Bush, but clearly creating a fiction character, readers end up with a shallow character who remains to the end an enigma. By clearly painting other characters with Sittenfeld’s image of the Bush extended family and social milieu, readers have to reconcile the fictional wife with the somewhat known Laura Bush and then try to reconcile Alice Blackwell with the real Bush family. On so many levels, none of that worked. I read on valiantly hoping that the characters would become more real and less caricature. I awaited some reconciliation or insight into the reasons for Alice’s loyalty to her husband despite her opposition to so many of his beliefs. By the last page, I came away with satisfaction that the book was finished, but with little pleasure at having read it.

Rating: Two-star (Mildly Recommended)

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