She had the president’s ear and the nation’s heart.
She’s the wife of the fourth president of the United States; a spirited charmer who adores parties, the latest French fashions, and the tender, brilliant man who is her husband. But while many love her, few suspect how complex Dolley Madison really is.
Only in the pages of her diary—as imagined by novelist Rita Mae Brown—can Dolley fully reveal herself. And there we discover the real first lady—impulsive, courageous, and wise—as she faces her harshest trial: in 1814, the United States is once more at war with mighty Britain, and her beloved James is the most hated man in America.
From the White House receptions she gaily presides over to her wild escape from a Washington under siege, Dolley gives us a legend, made warmly human. For there has never been a first lady so tested—or one who came through the fire so brilliantly.
If one can acquiesce to the rather leisurely pace of most of this fictional portrait of First Lady Dolley Madison, the payoff will be Brown's re-creation of Dolley's psychological, political and social insights into life in the nation's capital during the War of 1812. A combination of imagined first-person journal entries and third-person narrative, this work by the author of the considerably more racy Rubyfruit Jungle and Venus Envy took Brown eight years to research, though she admits she had to ``read between the lines''; an extensive bibliography is included. In Brown's portrayal, Dolley comes across as independent, perceptive, smart and emotionally strong. She is also depicted as witty--``the free press works in such a way that not one of us is free from it'': this from a woman about whom an eager-to-shock press spread false rumors concerning her friendships with men, particularly French political minister Louis Serurier. Those looking for romantic intrigue will not find it here, since Dolley is devoted to her husband. We do find political intrigue, however, as Madison's Republican administration meets with often nasty opposition by the New England Federalists, who do not support the war. This is a careful, endearing depiction of an admirable woman who, after her husband's death, spent much of her final 13 years tending to the restoration of Washington.