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Publisher's Summary

When the roar of the Revolution had finally died down, a new generation of American politicians was summoned to the Potomac to assemble the nation's newly minted capital. Into that unsteady atmosphere, which would soon enough erupt into another conflict with Britain in 1812, Dolley Madison arrived, alongside her husband, James. Within a few years, she had mastered both the social and political intricacies of the city, and by her death in 1849 was the most celebrated person in Washington. And yet, to most Americans, she's best known for saving a portrait from the burning White House, or as the namesake for a line of ice cream.

Why did her contemporaries give so much adulation to a lady so little known today? In A Perfect Union, Catherine Allgor reveals that while Dolley's gender prevented her from openly playing politics, those very constraints of womanhood allowed her to construct an American democratic ruling style, and to achieve her husband's political goals. And the way that she did so, by emphasizing cooperation over coercion, building bridges instead of bunkers, has left us with not only an important story about our past but a model for a modern form of politics.

Introducing a major new American historian, A Perfect Union is both an illuminating portrait of an unsung founder of our democracy, and a vivid account of a little-explored time in our history.

©2006 Catherine Allgor (P)2006 Audio Renaissance, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC

Critic Reviews

"The erudition and charm of this biography are rivaled only by that of its subject." (Publishers Weekly)

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A great first lady!

While reading other books I became very intrigued by Mrs. Madison, and I picked up this book to learn more about her. I have both read the book in paperback form and listened to this audio book, and I would highly recommend both!

Dolly Madison was a complex and fascinating woman, both in her time and in ours. This book gives a very detailed but never boring look at the life of this great first lady. Her larger than life personality comes to life in this book, and the reader is very enjoyable as well! I highly recommend it!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Lisa
  • Skillman, NJ, USA
  • 06-27-07

Where's Dolley?

I've been torturing myself with this one for months and have finally given up. Bought with the expectation of learning more about a very interesting lady, I keep waiting for her to play a leading role. Instead, she appears in all too brief snippets. In the meantime, I am forced to wade through pages of long drawn out descriptions of early Washington D.C, highly biased and questionably accurate anti-Jefferson comments, Henry Latrobe's interior decorating, and half of the war of 1812....

Maybe Dolley appears in the second half, but I think I learned more about her in "Patriot Hearts: A Novel of the Founding Mothers". If you want a detailed discription of early Washington D.C., this might be interesting, but the anti-Jefferson bias greatly detracts from the quality of the history presented.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Barbara
  • Orlando, FL, USA
  • 05-25-06

Somewhat ponderous

This book is full of interesting tidbits, such as the sad state of early Washington,D.C., but it just took so long to pick up any momentum, I had to let it go partway through.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful