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Book Review - Rodham

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I've read this book for an online book club that meets in September. It's a fiction novel about what would have happened if Hillary Clinton hadn't married Bill. It's a fascinating take on American Politics, which I enjoyed tremendously.

The theme of the book is sexism, of course. There were some astute observations sprinkled throughout the book which I liked. For example, Curtis Sittenfeld writes about having a family in the context of a career for women. She touches on it at several points through Hillary's reflections, and one quote which I loved was this: "Even with nannies, wouldn't I always have wondered if my ambition was detrimental to them, if the exposure was fair, if the times I was away were excessive and damaging? Did men wonder this? Not, it seemed, in such a way that it immobilized them or precluded their advancement.” (p. 284).

Another topic that features prominently in the book is the double standard for men and women. I loved how she approached this topic, especially in her description of how it changed over the years. For instance, in Hillary’s childhood, her friend’s father says she’s “awfully opinionated for a girl”, and she is considered “an honorary man” throughout her youth. Then, during the national campaigns, she describes how the media scrutinises her look, her clothes, and her voice in much more detail than her male opponents. The double standard today (or in 2015, but I think it applies) is more subtle, but it’s still there.

The topic that runs through the plot and drives it is sexual harassment in all its variations. Again, Curtis has done a fantastic job comparing the Bill Clinton character’s sexual harassment and general womanising to other cases of sexual harassment such as Clarence Thomas and (briefly and in much less detail) Donald Trump. What convinces Hillary to break up with Bill is an accusation of rape, and what drives her to enter politics is Anita Hill’s testimony. Towards the end of the book, sexual harassment plays a role in the plot again, but I won’t spoil it for you.

What I find curious is writing an alternative reality book about a real, living person. I wonder how Mrs Clinton reacted to this book. It’s gotta be weird, especially the sex scenes. I would be interested in seeing both Curtis and Hillary in a heart-to-heart sometime, maybe in a TED interview or something, talking about feminism. That would be something.


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