The President’s Wife

Sourcebooks Landmark. Aug. 2023. 352p. ISBN 9781728257846. $27.99. F
In her third fictionalized biography (following The War Nurse), Wood focuses on World War I and the creation of the League of Nations. After socialite widow Edith Bolling Galt marries President Woodrow Wilson in 1915, she realizes that all her personal accomplishments must fade away for her to become “an important man’s wife.” With this transformative goal, Edith looks after her beloved Woodrow until his death in 1924. Early on, she becomes his trusted partner in the West Wing, helping with correspondence and eventually with weighty decision-making. When he has a paralyzing stroke in 1919, she aggressively comes to his aid, allowing only the most urgent matters and people to disturb his recovery. Wood does not stint on describing the circumspect charms of the Wilsons’ romantic relationship. Their private lives play out against a backdrop of women’s suffrage, vicious partisan politics, and their racism. Especially vivid are Edith’s prickly reactions to the influential Colonel Edward House and the despised Henry Cabot Lodge.
VERDICT Wood’s book is a stately and dignified account that is beautifully leavened by intimate glimpses of Edith and Woodrow in their happiness, grief, anger, and optimism.
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