Mrs. Lincoln's dressmaker A novel

Jennifer Chiaverini

Book - 2013

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FICTION/Chiaverini, Jennifer
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1st Floor FICTION/Chiaverini, Jennifer Due May 31, 2022
Subjects
Genres
Historical fiction
Published
New York : Dutton c2013.
Language
English
Physical Description
356 p. ; 24 cm
ISBN
0142180351
9780142181980
9780525953616
0525953612
Main Author
Jennifer Chiaverini (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Chiaverini's latest is based on the true story of Elizabeth Keckley, who bought freedom from slavery for herself and her son and went on to become a well-known modiste in Washington. Keckley had a front-row seat to history: she dressed Washington's A-list, including Jefferson Davis' wife before they left D.C., and, most intimately, Mary Todd Lincoln. Mrs. Lincoln is mercurial, scheming, extravagant, and troubled, but Elizabeth stands by her as she is lambasted in the press. Long stretches of battle history and descriptions of Lincoln's political rivals lag, while more time spent on Elizabeth's work with newly freed slaves in D.C. would have been welcome. Still, Elizabeth Keckley is an admirable heroine—successful, self-made, and utterly sympathetic. Readers of the Elm Creek Quilt series who have enjoyed Chiaverini's narrative jaunts into Civil War and Underground Railroad history will be interested in Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker—and there is even a little bit of quilting in the story. This is also a good choice for readers of Christian historical fiction, as both Elizabeth's and Mr. Lincoln's faiths are important elements in shaping their characters. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

In Washington, DC, freedwoman Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley becomes the personal modiste (and confidante) of First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln. Chiaverini departs from her popular "Elm Creek Quilt" series to tell the story. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Elizabeth "Lizzy" Keckley, a freed slave in Washington, D.C., right before the start of the Civil War, gains fame as a dressmaker for Northerners and Southerners alike, but when Lincoln is elected and the Southerners secede, she chooses to remain in Washington. She becomes the modiste for Mary Todd Lincoln and is privy to the innermost workings of the Lincoln White House, Mary Todd's reckless spending, President Lincoln's death, and his widow's subsequent penury. When Lizzy writes a memoir about her experiences, she's denigrated by the public (which derides it as "Kitchen and Bed-Chamber Literature") for betraying the Lincoln confidences even though she casts Mary Todd in a favorable light. Chiaverini's characterization of the relationship between Mary Todd and Lizzy, a real historical figure, is nuanced, revealing a friendship that is at times unstable and fraught with class distinctions but also warm and protective. Though not without its problems (characters are insulated from the worst of the war; Lizzy is curiously passive; the pacing can be slow), Chiaverini deviates from her usual focus on quilting (found in the Elm Creek Quilts series) to create a welcome historical. Agent: Maria Massie, Lippincott Massie McQuilkin. (Jan.) [Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Presents a fictionalized account of the friendship between Mary Todd Lincoln and her dressmaker Elizabeth Keckley, a former slave.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

The New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln's Sisters and Switchboard Soldiers unveils the private lives of President Abraham Lincoln and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, through the eyes of the First Lady’s most trusted confidante and friend in this compelling historical novel. In a life that spanned nearly a century and witnessed some of the most momentous events in American history, Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley was born a slave. A gifted seamstress, she earned her freedom by the skill of her needle, and won the friendship of First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln by her devotion. A sweeping historical novel, Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker illuminates the extraordinary relationship the two women shared, beginning in the hallowed halls of the White House during the trials of the Civil War and enduring almost, but not quite, to the end of Mrs. Lincoln’s days.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Chiaverini’s compelling historical novel unveils the private lives of Abraham and Mary Lincoln through the perspective of the First Lady’s most trusted confidante and friend, her dressmaker, Elizabeth Keckley. In a life that spanned nearly a century and witnessed some of the most momentous events in American history, Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley was born a slave. A gifted seamstress, she earned her freedom by the skill of her needle, and won the friendship of First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln by her devotion. A sweeping historical novel, Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker illuminates the extraordinary relationship the two women shared, beginning in the hallowed halls of the White House during the trials of the Civil War and enduring almost, but not quite, to the end of Mrs. Lincoln’s days.