One of my goals for 2015 is to get back to my roots and read more books. As the great Frederick Douglass said, ‘Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.’ Books are a passion – nay, an obsession of mine and always have been. I grew up in the library and my parents fostered my love of reading and learning. With books I have lived a thousand lives, found myself absorbed in different worlds, and learned immensely more than I could have otherwise. So put up your feet, grab a good paperback and let’s get reading!
The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Andersen is one of the most interesting books I’ve read all year. The novel is full of fascinating insights into the lives of the butlers, maids, florists and other White House staff who work very hard to welcome and serve the presidential families. They are fiercely devoted, sworn to be apolitical, serving each family that arrives after Inauguration Day as evenly as the next, despite the upheaval each presidential change creates.
As a fan of history, I enjoy the stories which bring lives into focus, and in this case, gives excellent background to world events. It was fascinating to read about the friendship, intimacy, companionship and service the staff provides the families who are on the world stage but at the end of the day just want to kick up their feet. Of course, the staff cannot and will not be completely open due to the nature of their jobs and the respect they feel for the first families, but there is more than enough they do share. Thankfully, very little of it is shown through rose colored glasses.
The time between the pages is spent following the staff living and working in the White House. The most dramatic being the events on 9/11, and how the staff courageously did their duties even in the face of potential threat to their very lives. Also compelling were stories of presidential affairs, death and even the first “revolt” by the largely African-American staff to push for salary equality in the late 1960s.
I enjoyed this book very much, it is a wonderful companion to anyone interested in the behind the scenes workings of the White House, presidential families’ private lives or American history.
Click here to see my goals for 2015