My first Chiaverini book and I want to read more. Wonderful for those who want a view of the Civil War from a free colored woman's perspective. The well-researched book gives an intimate study of the Lincoln White House.
** 1/2 stars. In Mrs. Lincoln?s Dressmaker, novelist Jennifer Chiaverini presents an account of the friendship that grew between Mary Todd Lincoln and her seamstress, Elizabeth ?Lizzie? Keckley, a former slave who gained her professional reputation in Washington, D.C. by outfitting the city?s elite. Keckley made history by sewing for First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln within the White House, thus becoming a trusted witness to many private moments between the President and his wife.
In March 1861, Mrs. Lincoln chose Keckley from among a number of applicants to be her personal ?modiste,? responsible not only for creating the First Lady?s gowns, but also for dressing Mrs. Lincoln in the beautiful attire Keckley had fashioned. The relationship between the two women quickly evolved, as Keckley was drawn into the intimate life of the Lincoln family, supporting Mary Todd Lincoln in the loss of first her son to illness, and then her husband to assassination.
Keckley saved scraps from the dozens of gowns she made for Mrs. Lincoln, eventually piecing together a tribute known as the Mary Todd Lincoln Quilt. She also saved memories, which she fashioned into a book, "Behind the Scenes: Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House". Upon its publication, Keckley?s memoir created a scandal that compelled Mary Todd Lincoln to sever all ties with her, but in the decades since, Keckley?s story has languished in the archives. ***** I wanted to like this book more than I did. While supposed to be an historical NOVEL, it reads more as an history of events we have heard told many times. I would have liked to have more insight into Elizabeth Keckly and her life outside her interactions with Mrs. Lincoln even if there is scant historical documentation of how she rose from slave to modiste. This is supposed to be fiction - Ms. Chiaverini, bring the struggles of this woman to life!! Ms Keckly is obviously an extraordinary and intelligent woman, but how exactly did she gain the education she needed to speak as she did in the novel ( if she did indeed speak so articulately ) and to write her autobiography in an era when a slave could be killed or at least severely punished for simply learning how to read. Too much historical Lincoln and not enough fictional dressmaker. If you are writing a novel about a character, make her come to life!! Mild recommendation if you are interested in the Lincoln White House.
This title is the first I have read by this author. Based on true fact, the Civil War, seen through and experienced by Mrs. Lincoln's dressmaker, Elizabeth gives an entertaining side to the facts. I would recommend this title.
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