Review White Houses: A Novel by Amy Bloom, New York Times Bestselling Author

For readers of The Paris Wife and The Swans of Fifth Avenue comes a “sensuous, captivating account of a forbidden affair between two women” (People)—Eleanor Roosevelt and “first friend” Lorena Hickok.

Lorena Hickok meets Eleanor Roosevelt in 1932 while reporting on Franklin Roosevelt’s first presidential campaign. Having grown up worse than poor in South Dakota and reinvented herself as the most prominent woman reporter in America, “Hick,” as she’s known to her friends and admirers, is not quite instantly charmed by the idealistic, patrician Eleanor. But then, as her connection with the future first lady deepens into intimacy, what begins as a powerful passion matures into a lasting love, and a life that Hick never expected to have. She moves into the White House, where her status as “first friend” is an open secret, as are FDR’s own lovers. After she takes a job in the Roosevelt administration, promoting and protecting both Roosevelts, she comes to know Franklin not only as a great president but as a complicated rival and an irresistible friend, capable of changing lives even after his death. Through it all, even as Hick’s bond with Eleanor is tested by forces both extraordinary and common, and as she grows as a woman and a writer, she never loses sight of the love of her life.

From Washington, D.C. to Hyde Park, from a little white house on Long Island to an apartment on Manhattan’s Washington Square, Amy Bloom’s new novel moves elegantly through fascinating places and times, written in compelling prose and with emotional depth, wit, and acuity.

Praise for White Houses

“Amy Bloom brings an untold slice of history so dazzlingly and devastatingly to life, it took my breath away.”—Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife

“Vivid and tender . . . Bloom—interweaving fact and fancy—lavishes attention on [Hickok], bringing Hick, the novel’s narrator and true subject, to radiant life.”O: The Oprah Magazine

“Radiant . . . an indelible love story, one propelled not by unlined youth and beauty but by the kind of soul-mate connection even distance, age, and impossible circumstances couldn’t dim . . . Bloom’s goal is less to relitigate history than to portray the blandly sexless figurehead of First Lady as something the job rarely allows those women to be—a loving, breathing human being. And she does it brilliantly.”Entertainment Weekly

 

White Houses: A Novel by [Bloom, Amy]

 

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Bloom deftly explores what might have been in this novel about the real romance between Eleanor Roosevelt and journalist Lorena Hickok. . . . It’s a sensuous, captivating account of a forbidden affair between two women, one of them viewed by all the world as a saint.”People

“‘All fires go out,’ Hickok says, explaining her lingering feelings to Franklin. ‘It doesn’t mean that we don’t still want to sit by the fireplace, I guess.’ In White Houses, Bloom has built up exactly the sort of blaze that will draw readers to linger.”Time

“Vivid and tender . . . Bloom—interweaving fact and fancy—lavishes attention on [Lorena Hickok], bringing Hick, the novel’s narrator and true subject, to radiant life.”O: The Oprah Magazine

“[An] irresistibly audacious re-creation of the love affair between Eleanor Roosevelt and journalist Lorena ‘Hick’ Hickok . . . Bloom convincingly weaves tender romance with hard-boiled reality. . . . Bloom notes that the White House staff routinely cropped Hickok out of photos. In White Houses, she’s in the center of the frame, and nobody who reads this sad, funny, frisky novel is going to forget her.”USA Today

“Radiant . . . An indelible love story, one propelled not by unlined youth and beauty but by the kind of soul-mate connection even distance, age, and impossible circumstances couldn’t dim . . . Bloom’s goal is less to relitigate history than to portray the blandly sexless figurehead of First Lady as something the job rarely allows those women to be—a loving, breathing human being. And she does it brilliantly.”Entertainment Weekly

“Steeped with open secrets, intimate tension, and historical truths, [White Houses] expertly portrays the kaleidoscopic forms womanhood can take.”New York

“Profoundly affecting . . . Bloom’s Hick is frank, funny, and irreverent. . . . White Houses, by seeing the Roosevelt era through the most unlikely of outsiders-turned-insider, brings a hidden chapter of East Wing history to life.”The Boston Globe

“A remarkably intimate and yet informative novel of the secret, scandalous love of Eleanor Roosevelt and her longtime friend and companion Lorena Hickok, who relates the tale in her own, quite wonderful voice.”—Joyce Carol Oates

“Amy Bloom illuminates one of the most intriguing relationships in history. Lorena Hickok is a woman who found love with another lost soul, Eleanor Roosevelt. And love is what this book is all about: It suffuses every page, so that by the time you reach the end, you are simply stunned by the beauty of the world these two carved out for themselves.”—Melanie Benjamin, author of The Swans of Fifth Avenue

About the Author

Amy Bloom is the author of Come to Me, a National Book Award finalist; A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You, nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Love Invents Us; Normal; Away, New York Times bestseller; Where the God of Love Hangs Out; and Lucky Us, New York Times bestseller. Her stories have appeared in The Best American Short Stories, O. Henry Prize Short Stories, The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction, and many other anthologies here and abroad. She has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, Vogue, O: The Oprah Magazine, Slate, Tin House, and Salon, among other publications, and has won a National Magazine Award. She is the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing at Wesleyan University.

Top customer reviews

prisrob
TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE

There have always been rumors of Lesbian love affairs associated with Eleanor Roosevelt. Eleanor, a famous woman on her own, a beauty in her younger days, intellectually stimulating, caring mother and wife. We learn a lot about her, but this is Lorena Hickok’s story, and this story is told from her perspective.

In and out of the White House, in New York apartments, and out in the world, the story goes from President Roosevelt’s death back to Hickok’s early life. A hard scrabble child, she had a difficult childhood, no money, turned from her home at a very young age, worked in a circus and became a journalist. And, then, she met Eleanor.

Amy Bloom has captured the essence of Hickok’s and Eleanor’s love story. From the Governor’s mansion to the White House, we learn a great deal about Eleanor, but sometimes more about FDR. This is a book that gives us the real deal about the man, his needy children, and those who surround the President and First Lady. FDR died in April, 1945, and we hear about his funeral from Eleanor’s perspective. The storyline revolves around FDR’s life and death, and the love affair between Eleanor and Hickok.

Such fine writing by Amy Bloom, we enter the realm of a love not talked about much before this time. Told from the perspective of the other woman, this is a love story to remember.

Divascribe
VINE VOICE

This is a heartbreaking story of hidden love, a novel based on what many believe to have been the affair between Eleanor Roosevelt and journalist Lorena Hickok. Hickok is the narrator of this novel, which author Amy Bloom has created from the documentation available, including many letters between the two women. Many other letters, Bloom notes, were destroyed.

When “Hick” met Eleanor in 1932, the latter was the wife of the governor of New York, Franklin Roosevelt, who was in his first campaign for president. Eleanor was rather shy and had spent much of the previous years consumed with the tasks of motherhood and dealing with her overbearing mother-in-law. She wasn’t at all sure she was cut out to be first lady.

Despite their differences in personality — Hick was brash, outspoken and not too secretive about being a lesbian; Eleanor was dignified, private and patrician — the two soon found themselves very attracted to each other. The novel traces their decades-long love affair of the heart and mind, sometimes together and other times not, but always striving to hide a situation that, even now, would be a huge scandal. Franklin, of course, had his fun with other women, and Eleanor was expected to look the other way. Her relationships with her needy, manipulative grown children were fraught with emotional pitfalls. Through it all, Hick was her rock, even when rumors swirled around them.

This is a lovely story, with some joy as well as the inevitable sadness that comes from having to hide one’s true feelings from the world. Hick’s voice is strong and true. Eleanor, while not as strongly drawn by the author, develops and grows as the story proceeds. I don’t know how much of this is true, but it’s a good read.

Sonja Mcgillivray
This is a tremendous book on so many levels there is not enough space to examine them all. At the center of this great novel is the love story of Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok, a journalist. Lorena, known as “Hick,” lived in the White House with Eleanor for a long period time, until love cooled. They reunite after FDR’s death, which is where the narrative begins. The story then moves seamlessly between their early years and the “present.” It is story of struggle within relationships, the triumph of love and the inevitability of loss. In an afterword, Bloom notes that the White House staff always cropped Hickok out of photos. In White Houses, she’s in the center of the picture, where no one is likely to forget her.

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