Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
*Advanced Read from NetGalley*
This is a fictionalized account of the true relationship between Mrs. Mary Todd Lincoln and her dressmaker and confidante, Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley, set largely just before, during and immediately following the American Civil War. As I personally have read very little regarding the First Lady to our well-known and generally loved 16th President, the premise and subject matter of Jennifer Chiaverini's first novel was instantly intriguing to me and so many things jumped instantly to mind that I thought would be inspiring and educational about this story. Sadly, while I somewhat liked the book, it left me feeling as though much of that potential was unfulfilled.
There were some areas of this book that were excellently written, but unfortunately they were inconsistent and left me feeling detached from the story, when what I really wanted was to gain some insight and feeling for Elizabeth and Mrs. Lincoln. Heartwarming moments that were usually too brief would lead into several page sections that read more like a history text than a novel loosely based fact. While some of the facts, figures and historical events were necessary to further the story, many of them came across as more of a space filler and served only to distract me from the characters (in fact, I noted several times while reading "where is Elizabeth?" and "why does this matter?"). The result for me of the inconsistent story line was that I really felt nothing for the characters, and cannot pin point any specific time where I actually felt like I was let into their lives as much as I would have liked to be.
Following the war years, the story did improve a bit with more personal interaction between Mrs. Lincoln and Elizabeth, but this did not occur until nearly 75% into the novel. By this point I was merely reading to finish the story, and knew that there was not nearly enough material left for me to ever love this book.
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