HIDDEN POWER: Presidential Marriages That Shaped Our Recent History

Kati Marton, Author, Laura Bush, Epilogue by, George W. Bush, Epilogue by . Pantheon $25 (432p) ISBN 978-0-375-40106-0

The saying that behind every powerful man is a powerful woman guides Marton's exploration of presidential marriages, from the Wilsons to George W. and Laura Bush. Sometimes Marton points out the obvious: most presidential couples have been middle-aged, and no one got divorced after leaving office. Even in the chapters on individual couples, Marton rehearses themes that will already be familiar to many readers: after Woodrow Wilson had a stroke, his wife Edith ran the country as a sort of deputy president (Marton doesn't bring to this story the kind of originality that Phyllis Lee Levin's does in Edith and Woodrow (Forecasts, Aug. 6) ; Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt labored under the shadow of FDR's affair with his secretary, Missy LeHand; Bill and Hillary Clinton's marriage was an "unlimited partnership," in which Hillary bailed out her husband time and again. The analytical question that seems to most interest Marton is predictable—how do presidential wives balance feminism and tradition? Her answer—the balancing act is a tricky one—is banal. Surprisingly, the best chapter—in which Marton advances an argument that illuminates more than an individual couple—is on the Fords. Here, Marton suggests that "the same qualities that made Gerald Ford a good husband" (compassion, the ability to compromise) also made him a mediocre president. Marton has delivered crisply written political gossip—those who want buzz will flock to it; those looking for serious history will turn elsewhere. B&w photos. (Sept. 21)

Forecast:Despite its light quality, or perhaps because of it, this will be talked about everywhere, aided by a 13-city author tour, appearances on 20/20, Charlie Rose and other national media. Its first printing of 100,000 should sell handsomely.

Reviewed on: 08/20/2001
Release date: 09/01/2001
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 432 pages - 978-0-385-72188-2
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-7393-0000-8
Hardcover - 704 pages - 978-0-7838-9761-5
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