Reviewed by Sarah McCubbin
Behind the doors of America’s most famous home lives a world mostly unseen and unknown to the public. Part manor, part government hub and part icon, the White House operates smoothly every day due to the dedicated service of men and women who devote their lives to ensure the comforts and image of the First Family are given detailed attention. Most of what the staff does is never known. They operate with secrecy and discretion to protect the family name and security. Yet, their private work has a huge impact on the ability of the President and his family to function.
In order to unveil some of the mystery of this prestigious home, Kate Andersen Brower seeks to peek behind the curtain of history in her book, The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House. Written by interviewing past and current staff as well as members of previous first families, Brower has gathered an impressive collection of personal memories of daily life as well as special circumstances. So much of what we know about each president comes through media. While some of that is accurate, it gives an incomplete picture of that role. As is to be expected, each president and first lady had their share of quirks and preferences that are hidden from the cameras. Do you want to know which president was obsessed with the water pressure in his shower? Which first ladies were the most difficult to please? How did the staff offer support during tragedies like John F. Kennedy’s assassination? These are the kinds of little details scattered throughout this book.
The book’s unique content is sure to interest anyone interested in American history. Each chapter highlights different character qualities, tasks or challenges of the staff as they served the presidential family. Among others, chapters included are “Controlled Chaos” (the logistics of moving day), “Discretion, Devotion, Sacrifice” and “Backstairs Gossip and Mischief”. While this way of ordering information was helpful, the book would have been easier to follow if it was arranged chronologically by president. As it is, there are various facts about different presidents in each chapter. Overall, though, I thoroughly enjoyed this work and would definitely recommend it to others.
Sarah McCubbin is a homeschooling and foster mom in NE Ohio where she resides with her husband and 7 children. In addition to reading great books, she enjoys gardening, traveling and blogging at Living Unboxed.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by HarperCollins Publishers. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.