cover image First Families: Their Lives in the White House

First Families: Their Lives in the White House

Bonnie Angelo, . . Morrow, $25.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-06-056356-1

Veteran Time correspondent Angelo (First Mothers: The Women Who Shaped the Presidents ) makes the lives of those who either loved or loathed their sojourns in the White House as irresistible as a gossip column. Although some of her stories are well known—such as Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt's distant relationship and Nancy Reagan's devotion to her husband—Angelo has gleaned fresh nuggets from history as well as her personal contacts from a long journalistic career. Andrew Jackson, for example, gave an eight-year-old slave as a christening gift to a relative named after his deceased, beloved wife. President Taft was so fat he got stuck in the presidential bathtub. Lemonade Lucy Hayes banned alcohol at state dinners, but she was undermined by rum punch hidden in platters of oranges. Angelo is particularly skilled at describing the difficulties White House children, including Lyndon Johnson's daughters and Amy Carter, had adjusting to life in a fish bowl. Angelo does, however, ramble, with loosely organized subjects rather than a chronological narrative, and doesn't anchor less familiar figures, like the families of presidents Polk and Pierce, in historical context. 16 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW . Agent, Todd Shuster. (Sept.)