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Interview: Curtis Sittenfeld discusses ‘Rodham’ with Audible Editor Rachel

''I had this realization that school children who knew who she was…''
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  • Rodham
  • ''I had this realization that school children who knew who she was…''

Publisher's Summary

New York Times Best Seller

From the author of American Wife and Eligible.... 

He proposed. She said no. And it changed her life forever.

"Deviously clever.... Sittenfeld's Hillary is both a player in the Game of Thrones and a romance novel heroine. She's a brilliant badass who has found her voice and knows how to use it. She's whoever she wants to be." (O, The Oprah Magazine)

Named One of the Best Books of the Year by:

  • The New Yorker
  • NPR
  • The Washington Post
  • Marie Claire
  • Cosmopolitan (UK)
  • Town & Country
  • New York Post

In 1971, Hillary Rodham is a young woman full of promise: Life magazine has covered her Wellesley commencement speech, she's attending Yale Law School, and she's on the forefront of student activism and the women's rights movement. And then she meets Bill Clinton. A handsome, charismatic Southerner and fellow law student, Bill is already planning his political career. 

In each other, the two find a profound intellectual, emotional, and physical connection that neither has previously experienced. In the real world, Hillary followed Bill back to Arkansas, and he proposed several times; although she said no more than once, as we all know, she eventually accepted and became Hillary Clinton. But in Curtis Sittenfeld’s powerfully imagined tour-de-force of fiction, Hillary takes a different road. 

Feeling doubt about the prospective marriage, she endures their devastating breakup and leaves Arkansas. Over the next four decades, she blazes her own trail - one that unfolds in public as well as in private, that involves crossing paths again (and again) with Bill Clinton, that raises questions about the tradeoffs all of us must make in building a life. 

Brilliantly weaving a riveting fictional tale into actual historical events, Curtis Sittenfeld delivers an uncannily astute and witty story for our times. In exploring the loneliness, moral ambivalence, and iron determination that characterize the quest for political power, as well as both the exhilaration and painful compromises demanded of female ambition in a world still run mostly by men, Rodham is a singular and unforgettable novel. 

©2020 Curtis Sittenfeld (P)2020 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“[Curtis] Sittenfeld is a clear thinker, a canny observer, and a solid, graceful stylist.” (The Washington Post Book World)

 “Whatever [Sittenfeld] writes, we’ll read it.” (People

“[Sittenfeld] is a skilled storyteller. [She] delivers a well-told, compelling story about characters so real they settle into your psyche like old friends.” (Associated Press)

“Sittenfeld makes writing lively and diverting fiction look easy.” (Chicago Tribune

Editor's Pick

Does Curtis Sittenfeld have a crystal ball?!
I loved Curtis Sittenfeld's juicy fictional take on Laura and George Bush in 2008's American Wife, and the fact that she's given the same treatment to a new novel about a young Hillary Rodham Clinton is keeping me going right now.

In American Wife, she wrote about a school librarian from Texas who is swept off her feet by a devilishly charming suitor with ties to the Republican Party (never mind that she's a Democrat). Did Curtis Sittenfeld have a crystal ball when she wrote this? Could she see into a future where questions like ''Can a Republican and a Democrat fall in love?'' would feel more urgent than ever??

Indeed, her writing feels almost psychic, and I've been relishing the thought of peering into the mind of a young Hillary through Sittenfeld's lens. No one else captures the good, the bad, and the ugly of a character's internal life better than she does—her stories look at the truth of what it means to be a human in this world, even when that truth feels dark and prickly. In other words, she writes exactly the kinds of stories I want to listen to.

What listeners say about Rodham

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I felt insulted by this novel

One day after finishing this book, my anger against it increased. My feeling was upgraded from "dislike" to "detest". Therefore, 1 star instead of 2.

I had been fascinated by Bill Clinton since he was elected to be US president in 1992. I read many books about him and wished I would meet him one day to see if his charm was real. It finally happened in 2016 at a Hillary event. Hillary was with Bill and Chelsea and I met all of them. Hillary took a selfie with me. What surprised me the most was that Hillary was a better speaker and had more charisma than Bill by that time.

I'm sure many of us who voted for Hillary in 2008(primary) and 2016 wonder "what if"s. One of them is Hillary and Bill's marriage. I read this novel hoping Hillary gets better life in the alternate universe.

Unfortunately, it was a letdown. If she had decided not to marry Bill, she would've moved on completely. Hillary in this novel sounds too insecure about her looks or her value as a woman(and as a person). I don't think she is like that at all. Sittenfeld doesn't seem to understand who Hillary is. It's quite an insult for Hillary and readers like me. I don't think Sittenfeld really understood why women decide to stay with their boyfriends or husbands who are obviously bad for them. I hate the way Sittenfeld cheapened Hillary's character and her struggle.

27 people found this helpful

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Women voted against Hillary? Unbelievable!

I loved it for the most part! She should have been elected in 2016! Too late for the best!

7 people found this helpful

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Under-whelmed

Ok, the premise of this book had me hooked. What would Hilary's life had been had she not married Bill?

Apparently, and stop reading now for spoilers.....

Her life was to be destined to be a sheltered prude who is constantly having to be told what or how things are, is shocked and overly righteous, child-woman that has never done anything wrong in her whole GD life. Oh and also, after dating and leaving Bill, basically becomes a shrew that never finds another meaningful relationship until she is in her sixties. The relationships she has with women in this book are built up, only to be dismissed in an insultingly flimsy manner.

I have listened to audio books by this narrator before, and have enjoyed her. However, most of this book the tone is just off, she is almost overplaying how young Hilary would have sounded. Narration was a much better fit for "prime" Hilary (30-50) and honestly not old enough sounding at the end. Again, I have not experienced this with this narrator before, so I am blaming the book.

I also appreciate the author;s attempt to interweave actual history into this fictitious timeline, but it just wasn't meaty ENOUGH to be believable. And while I heard lost about Hilary eating only toast for dinner (*cough*um what. Even models eat more than that*cough*) you didn't really get to learn about how this unburdened Hilary made her mark, I actually LOVED the story about the Landlord. More of that would have been GREAT so that it didn't just seem like Hilary happened to fall into a Presidential Election.

I also listened to "What Happened" by Hilary Clinton, and found this book to be nowhere near the tone of the actual Hilary. She does not seem easily shocked, does have a sense of humor (which this Hilary most definitely does not have) and has a FIRE in her. Whatever your politics are on the real Hilary, she is one tough broad to have made it this far in life, and this fake-Hilary didn't emote that at all. I also didn't particularly enjoy "What Happened" - but would recommend it, over this.

I am not writing this author off, and will hopefully get to listen to American Wife soon!

6 people found this helpful

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Sittenfeld does it again!

With this engaging novel of Hillary Rodham's life under the guise: What if Hillary never married Bill Clinton. I devoured this book and loved connecting the characters to this fictional novel.

The book reads like a biography with a fictional twist. I found myself giggling at some of the depictions because Sittenfeld nails some of the characters.

I don't entirely agree with who Hillary might have been without Bill, as depicted in this story. I do though feel she was and is a strong, brave, introspective, caring woman who found her own way in a predominately run boys club and paved the way for all women. In this work of fiction and in reality.

This is not a parody or a memoir, it is fiction. Take it for what it is. I enjoyed it tremendously.

4 people found this helpful

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This book defines these past four years for me

more than the actual four years which have passed. I'm a huge Sittenfeld fan and this book is no exception.

3 people found this helpful

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Had High Hopes, But Disapponted

I was captivated by the premise of this book and had really enjoyed American Wife, so I had high hopes. But rather than adding more dimensions to Hillary Rodham, Sittenfield turned her into a fairly dull and unlikable person. Too bad, because some of the plot twists that came from the premise were intriguing.

2 people found this helpful

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Not what expected...

Having familiarity with HRC’s history, I was intrigued about the idea of what could have been, if she had remained HC & continued to blossom in her brilliance, unencumbered. I expected this book to take me on an intellectual ride & was sorely disappointed. More than anything, it made me uncomfortable. The fictitious version of BC, in the book, seems to be a combination of the real Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, & Wade Boggs in his most notable interview. His character looms over the story line & detracts from the strength, confidence, resolve, & integrity of the main character. My expectation, for an intellectual ride, was derailed by insipid & unnecessary details &... my craving for a clearer image of the administration that could have been, was barely given a cracker.

2 people found this helpful

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Table of contents issues

As has been the case with other Audible titles, the constuct of the table of contents is lax. There are titles for the major parts of the story, but the narrative skips around time periods. Without subtitles stating the shifts between time periods within a chapter, there can be confusion. When you are listening to a book, you don't have the option of flipping through pages to retrace portions of the text. Please be more considerate of those who don't have access to the printed title!

1 person found this helpful

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Revisionist history in the best way

Pants suit nation fan fiction - but so fun and also thought provoking. One small change, one decision, opens up an entirely different path.

1 person found this helpful

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Spellbinding!

Imaginative alternative universe where so much is different and so much is the same. Love the way she characterizes the Clintons and other historical figures. A must listen! Superb performance by the narrator.

1 person found this helpful