THE PRESIDENT'S HOUSE: A First Daughter Shares the History and Secrets of the World's Most Famous Home

Margaret Truman, Author . Ballantine $27.95 (416p) ISBN 978-0-345-44452-3

Bestselling novelist and first daughter Truman brings readers inside the White House, taking them on a notably reverential tour of its storied history, its well-known architecture and its intricate behind-the-scenes workings. There's a lighthearted jaunt through the White House kitchen, where one strong-willed housemaid kept serving President Truman brussels sprouts, though he hated them. The tour then goes to the White House garden, where Lincoln's gardener offered the first lady tips on hiding her excessive shopping expenses. Much of Truman's narrative is history lite aimed at the Martha Stewart set. Yet it contains just enough interesting anecdotes and stirring pageantry to be of interest to the general reader who's curious about how the White House functions. Truman dishes the gossip, especially about the White House as a social setting. For example, she describes Madame Chiang Kai-shek (wife of the Chinese general) as one of the most insufferable houseguests ever. Truman devotes separate chapters to the household staff, the political staff, the press corps, the security staff, White House weddings, first ladies, first children and even first pets: after the Clinton-era rivalry between Socks the cat and Buddy the dog, Socks ended up with a staffer while Buddy stayed with the Clintons. Despite the breeziness of this account, Truman does a fine job of evoking America's most famous residence as a place with "a unique combination of history, tragedy, comedy, melodrama and the ups and downs of ordinary living." 75 color and b&w photos. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 08/04/2003
Release date: 11/01/2003
Genre: Nonfiction
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