Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini

In Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, novelist Jennifer Chiaverini presents a stunning account of the friendship that blossomed 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, a trusted witness to many private moments between the President and his wife, two of the most compelling figures in American history.

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, and then her husband to the assassination that stunned the nation and the world.

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. In this impeccably researched, engrossing novel, Chiaverini brings history to life in rich, moving style.

Hardcover, 352 pages
Published January 15th 2013 by Dutton Adult 
(ebook provided by netgalley, audio version from personal library)
I am not overly familair with the Lincoln's (other then that he was president, I'm Canadian) or the lives of US presidents let alone their wives.  I listened to the audio version of this book and really enjoyed it.  Christina Moore is the reader here and she did a great job of it.

Like I said I listen to the audio version and thoroughly enjoyed it.  The reader brought this story to life.  My interest was peeked and I was engaged the whole way through.  This book read more like nonfiction and I had no problem with that.  It appears to be well researched and felt authentic.  Elizabeth Keckley has had quite the life, former slave, mother, separated from her husband and she runs her own dressmaking shop.  You know she is hard working, to be able to buy not just herself but her son also out of slavery shows her drive. The relationship between Mary Todd Lincoln and Elizabeth Keckley is unique and made for an interesting story.  Whether I would have enjoyed this book if I had read it myself I am not sure.  

I've read this author's Elim Creek Quilt series and enjoyed those also. 

1 comment:

  1. I read this one shortly after it came out and liked it! Put ' Lincoln' in the title and I will probably pick it after effect of growing up in the 'Land of Lincoln'!