‘You’re awfully opinionated for a girl Hillary’ are words spoken to a young Hillary Clinton in Rodham, Curtis Sittenfeld’s speculative new novel that imagines what might have happened if Hillary Rodham had never married Bill Clinton.
In American Wife, Curtis Sittenfeld painted a picture of an ordinary American girl who found herself married to a President – basing it on the life of Laura Bush. In this new novel, she takes another ordinary American girl, Hillary Rodham (‘You are awfully opinionated for a girl, Hillary’), and explores how her life might have turned out if she had stayed an independent woman.
Smart, diligent, and a bit plain, that’s the general consensus. Then Hillary goes to college, and her star rises. At Yale Law School, she continues to be a leader – and catches the eye of driven, handsome and charismatic Bill. But when he asks her to marry him, Hillary gives him a firm No.
How might things have turned out for them, for America, for the world itself, if Hillary Rodham had really turned down Bill Clinton?
With her sharp but always compassionate eye, Sittenfeld explores the loneliness, moral ambivalence and iron determination that characterise the quest for high office, as well as the painful compromises demanded of female ambition in a world ruled by men.