A remarkable history with elements of both In the President's Secret Service and The Butler, The Residence offers an intimate account of the service staff of the White House, from the Kennedys to the Obamas.
America's first families are unknowable in many ways. No one has insight into their true character like the people who serve their meals and make their beds every day. Full of stories and details by turns dramatic, humorous, and heartwarming, The Residence reveals daily life in the White House as it is really lived through the voices of the maids, butlers, cooks, florists, doormen, engineers, and others who tend to the needs of the president and first family.
These dedicated professionals maintain the six-floor mansion's 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, 28 fireplaces, three elevators, and eight staircases and prepare everything from hors d'oeuvres for intimate gatherings to meals served at elaborate state dinners. Over the course of the day, they gather in the lower level's basement kitchen to share stories, trade secrets, forge lifelong friendships, and sometimes even fall in love.
Combining incredible first-person anecdotes from extensive interviews with scores of White House staff members - many speaking for the first time - with archival research, Kate Andersen Brower tells their story. She reveals the intimacy between the first family and the people who serve them as well as tension that has shaken the staff over the decades. From the housekeeper and engineer who fell in love while serving President Reagan to Jackie Kennedy's private moment of grief with a beloved staffer after her husband's assassination to the tumultuous days surrounding President Nixon's resignation and President Clinton's impeachment battle, The Residence is full of surprising and moving details that illuminate day-to-day life at the White House.
©2015 Kate Andersen Brower (P)2015 HarperCollins Publishers
The narration started out sounding stilted and super slow and drawn out--so much so that for a while I had the speed turned up to 1.25. Then White, the narrator, seemed to relax and the reading improved and I was able to go back to the normal slower speed. But, be aware the first quarter of the book was difficult going until it got better--so be prepared to give it some time.
The writing is not done in chronologic order so there is a fair amount of jumping around in time. This was a bit confusing. Also, events are organized by topics and broken down into sections. The problem was that there were several stories that must have fit into multiple sections and rather than just tell them once--they were repeated. I think the book could have been about two hours shorter if the author just stated up front once that all the employees that worked in the White House kept quiet about the first families and honored their privacy. This point was belabored so much that it was ridiculous. If it were really true there would be no book!
All those quibbles aside I enjoyed the book. I particularly liked the stories that came from the families themselves. It was fun, gossipy, glamorous, wasteful, silly and in spots filled with surprising detail. A chance to see an inside view of life in the White House that spans decades and shows the first families and the staff as the flawed humans they are. Recommended if you'd like to hear the gossips tour of the eighteen acres.
I have to abandon this book due to the awful narration. The slowness, cadence and inflections used by the narrator are very strange. I can't listen to another minute.
I really did not care for the narrators voice at all. Very annoying and dramatic.
Very surprised so much private info was given out. I have read so much about the Presidents and surprised this info was disclosed to the public even though I found it interesting. I thought papers were signed by employees to secrecy .
I found the insights into the first families and the people who work for them interesting. However, I found the book to be slightly repetitious. It seemed like the author didn't have enough for a full book, so she padded the stories and told some of them again in slightly different ways. This probably would have been a better book to read in print. There was a list at the beginning of the book with the names of the people interviewed and what they did. It would have been helpful to be able to refer back to it. Another distraction was the reader trying to give the numerous characters unique voices. I think she overdid her interpretation of the African American voice. If someone is interested in personal history, the book is worth reading, but it is not a good book for listening.
The narrator was off-putting on this selection. She would change her voice for every character in a conversation. I found it irritating. The story was interesting.
The information in the book was great, I just didn't love the narrator. She has a very choppy, almost robotic way of speaking at times which I found very distracting. I still enjoyed the book, though.
Just my personal opinion. I found the narrators voice very grating and her reading style unpleasant to listen to. I only made it through the first chapter so I can't say much about the book but even that little bit just wasn't for me. Sorry.
This really needs to be re-recorded. The narrator is so emotionless and robotic, and with such a stilted and oddly paced reading rhythm, I don't even know if the book is good.
Book was interesting, but truly lacked substance. I listen to audiobooks and was not impressed with the performance. I was expecting more.
I would listen to this again. The performance was gentle and forthright. I worked in a privileged situation like The Residence for many years. What I saw , heard and experienced was not at all what was represented to the public. It should not have been either because it would have been out of context and thus misunderstood. This is the quandary of confidentiality and the necessity of confidentiality. It can, however, devolve into lies and deception for any number of reasons and agendas. Each justification is another layer that buries the truth of any moment or situation and it will never see the light of day. This book is the accounting by various people who served Presidents and their families. Sure, they had considerations about their sharing being viewed as a betrayal of loyalty. Some staff wouldn't participate. Thanks be to those who did because it truly gave me an unvarnished insight into the everyday-humanity of the Presidents and their families and their private personalities versus what is represented to the public. Because of my personal perspective in the obsessively private world of a public family, I can, perhaps, a unique way, appreciate and recognize the honest remarks shared in this narrative . I was driving East to West across the United States while I listened to this book. As I looked out across the flooded spring landscape of Nebraska or southward to the turbulent tornado ravages of eastern Colorado, I had an intense awareness that the private President and his family was/ is accountable to THIS very public land. I wondered if each particular President being focused upon had ever taken this drive. Has this man ever dodged severe storms on the plains? How cerebral was he? Unaware, arrogant or compassionate and kind? This book gave me an insight into the heart (if there was one) of the private person who made decisions for our nation. I don't believe anything that comes through the spin of the media. I do find truth and humanity through the generous, candid sharing of the house staff. I was very sorry for this book to end.
There are two things that stand out 3 months after finishing this book:1) The kindness and lack of affect of George and Barbara Bush with the people who supported them in The Resisdence was exceptional. 2) The ugly, vulgar nature of Lyndon Johnson was clearly detailed.
I have never listened to Karen White perform before. I very much appreciated the gentle and dynamic quality she gave the book. I would consider seeking out her other work.
I would love to see this quality and depth given to historical Presidents, taken from journals of staff members, etc.
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