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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.
In March 1861, Mrs. Lincoln chose Keckley from among a number of applicants to be her personal “modiste”, responsible not only for creating the First Lady’s gowns, but also for dressing Mrs. Lincoln in the beautiful attire Keckley had fashioned. The relationship between the two women quickly evolved, as Keckley was drawn into the intimate life of the Lincoln family, supporting Mary Todd Lincoln in the loss of first her son, and then her husband to the assassination that stunned the nation and the world.
Keckley saved scraps from the dozens of gowns she made for Mrs. Lincoln, eventually piecing together a tribute known as the Mary Todd Lincoln Quilt. She also saved memories, which she fashioned into a book, Behind the Scenes: Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House. Upon its publication, Keckley’s memoir created a scandal that compelled Mary Todd Lincoln to sever all ties with her, but in the decades since, Keckley’s story has languished in the archives. In this impeccably researched, engrossing novel, Chiaverini brings history to life in rich, moving style.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Melissa on 03-04-13
A Wonderful Re-Imagining of Mrs. Keckley's Life
If you could sum up Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker in three words, what would they be?
Who was your favorite character and why?
Mrs. Lincoln was my favorite character in this story. I knew so little of her story after her husband was assassinated and she left the White House. So much of her misery was of her own making, but the disrespect with which she was treated after President Lincoln's murder was completely unnecessary. Her legacy has been much maligned by people who did not know her, or people who did know her that were jealous of her. The fact that she struggled in such a human way with her grief. . . not only of her husband's murder, but also the deaths of her two sons. . . was poignant and deeply touching. I'm not sure that I would have been able to act any differently had it been my husband and son.
Have you listened to any of Christina Moore’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
I was struck by the moment in which President Lincoln addressed the crowds in the evening after the war's conclusion from the White House window. The comment that he could be shot by anyone in the crowd made me think about how accessible he was the people and how that is so different from today.
Any additional comments?
This is definitely a story based in historical documents, so if you are not interested in the details, this is not the story for you. However, I will say that so much of whether I like an audiobook is based on how well I like the performer, and you cannot go wrong with Christina Moore's characterization of people in this story. It is subtle, beautifully done, and not overwrought.
17 of 17 people found this review helpful
By Connie on 12-26-13
Mrs. Keckley knew the Lincolns!
Civil War, backstabbing cabinet, difficult wife, dying children.... If I could invite 10 people, living or dead, to dinner, Mr. Lincoln would certainly be one of them and Elizabeth Keckley loved him too. She is the subject of this book and was an intimate member of the Lincoln White House and visited there frequently. I am so impressed with her accomplishments and her ability to navigate the Lincolns' life and many other high level Washingtonians at this time in history. She was clearly an extraordinary woman, if somewhat naive, and I am happy that Jennifer Chiaverini took the time to research and evaluate her importance in the Lincolns' lives. If you are a student of history, especially the Lincolns, you will love this book. The narrator, Christina Moore, is really good.
12 of 12 people found this review helpful