March 1, 2013

Reviewing "Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker" by Jennifer Chiaverini

With the release and subsequent award nominations for the movie "Lincoln", there is quite a buzz surrounding the legacy of Abraham Lincoln and his wife and family right now.  Jennifer Chiaverini's book "Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker" tells the Lincoln family story from the unique point of view of  Mary Todd Lincoln's dressmaker, Elizabeth Keckley.

Here is a portion of the book summary from the publisher:
"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."

After reading this book, I feel like I've received a very thorough history lesson about the Lincoln era.  Though I of course knew of the tragedy of his assassination, I had no idea what a tragic life Mary Todd Lincoln lived.  The friendship between Mrs. Lincoln and Elizabeth, gives the reader a window into the behind the scenes life of the First Family.  You witness the deterioration of the First Lady and the huge effects her downhill spiral had on Elizabeth's life. 
I thoroughly enjoyed the first half of the book. Reading about the dresses that Elizabeth was making and learning about what was happening in the inner circle of the White House during that time period was quite fascinating.  I did find the ending of the book to be very bleak, but since it is based on truth, it is a story that is worthwhile to read.   I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in historical fiction or a desire to "get to know" the Lincolns from a fresh point of view.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.