All I Did Was Marry Him

Elaine Showalter

  • American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
    Doubleday, 558 pp, £11.99, October 2008, ISBN 978 0 385 61674 4

Curtis Sittenfeld’s new novel, American Wife, based on the life of Laura Bush, and sympathetic to her political non-choices, has been getting attention alongside the self-exonerating memoirs and withering insider analyses piling up in the final weeks of the Bush presidency. In its positive assessment of the couple’s marriage (fictionally presented as healthy, affectionate and hot), its willingness to leave ethical issues open to interpretation, and its warnings of the gap between the public and the private person, American Wife is being contrasted with the Oliver Stone movie, W., in which Bush is portrayed by Josh Brolin as a drunken buffoon who turns his life around, becoming a sober, powerful and born-again buffoon. Sittenfeld, a Democrat and a liberal, may be doing more to humanise the Bush administration than all the press secretaries, publicists, apologists and spinners in the White House itself.

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