Pat Nixon remains one of our most mysterious and intriguing public figures, the only modern First Lady who never wrote a memoir. Beattie, like many of her generation, dismissed Richard Nixon's wife: "interchangeable with a Martian," she said. Decades later, she wonders what it must have been like to be married to such a spectacularly ambitious and catastrophically self-destructive man.
Drawing on a wealth of sources, Beattie reconstructs dozens of scenes in an attempt to see the world from Mrs. Nixon's point of view. Beattie packs insight and humor into her examination of the First Couple with whom baby boomers came of age. Mrs. Nixon is a startlingly compelling and revelatory work.
"Beattie has created a resplendent paean to the pleasures of the literary imagination, and a riveting and mischievous, revealing and revitalizing portrait of an overlooked woman." (Booklist)
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This book is marketed as a novel, yet the author uses a pedantic approach-- as though teaching creative writing -- via the imagined life of Pat Nixon, wife of our disgraced President. The author's writing style is quite disconcerting because it reads like a text book. Must she explain the most obvious analogies, i.e., crystal bowl and crystal ball? The many comparisons of the Nixons and/or events in their lives to literary works, such as Chekhov, seems to be a purely academic effort with little merit.
However, if you are looking for a book that might provide some lessons in the writing process, this could be the book for you.
If you want to learn about Mrs. Nixon, you would be far more gratified with PAT NIXON: AN UNTOLD STORY written by her daughter Julie Nixon Eisenhower, biased as it may be. Julie's book is an often quoted resource for this novel. Having read a biography of Mrs. Nixon and her daughter's book about her, I find this novel to be a disappointing exercise.