Behind the Scenes: Or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House

Dreamscape Audio. Mar. 2022. 6:48 hrs. ISBN 9781666524321. $22.99. MEMOIR
Adenrele Ojo becomes Elizabeth Keckley in this superbly nuanced performance of the formerly enslaved woman’s memoir. Keckley details her early life of enslavement and unhappy marriage, how she worked to buy her freedom and that of her sons, started her own dressmaking business in Washington, DC, and became so successful that she was hired by the wives of many powerful politicians, including Mary Todd Lincoln. Told as if in conversation, Ojo’s warm, careworn voicing of Keckley’s narrative is in stark contrast to those around her: young females who seek her help, Southern politicians’ wives who hire her to sew, and their powerful husbands, including President Lincoln, whom she meets during fittings. Keckley’s emotions are palpable throughout, from her humorous machinations to get the job with Mrs. Lincoln, her grief when Lincoln and his son Tad died, and her affection and concern for Mrs. Lincoln after the assassination. There is a musicality to the tone and rhythm in Ojo’s reading that will keep listeners tuning in to Keckley’s amazing story.
VERDICT An engrossing look at the life of a formerly enslaved woman in the Lincoln household of 1860s Washington.
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