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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Patty's Pick 10/24/13 - "Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker" by Jennifer Chiaverini

Cover image of Mrs. Lincoln's DressmakerI was really looking forward to reading this book by Jennifer Chiaverini after having read many good reviews. My family saw the movie, Lincoln,  and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was definitely one of the best movies we have seen to date. That said, this book seemed true to the times and thoughts of the characters. The dressmaker, Elizabeth Keckley, who was a former slave was brought into and became a large part of Mary Todd Lincoln's inner circle.

Elizabeth's life as a slave was lightly mentioned. Her life after she became a freed woman was the emphasis of this historical novel. It evolves around her relationship with Mrs. Lincoln. In "Washington City" directly prior to the start of the Civil War, we are introduced to our main character. Elizabeth describes her thoughts concerning slavery, the War, and the Lincoln's White House. She becomes the exclusive dressmaker and modiste of Mary Todd Lincoln. This novel does portray the heartbreak of the Lincoln family and the hardships of the war. After the assassination of President Lincoln, Elizabeth takes care of Mrs. Lincoln and her dressmaking business suffers. It is hard to believe the suffering Widow Lincoln endured and still she lived into old age.

I expected this book would read like a novel but it mostly read like a history book. The thoughts and life of Elizabeth Keckley were entertaining and I really wanted more from her thoughts and experiences. I just wanted more of her life, but that was not the intent of this novel. It does give one a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes look at Mary Todd Lincoln and her extraordinary "modiste", Lizzie Keckley.