White Houses

White Houses

For readers of The Paris Wife and The Swans of Fifth Avenue comes a "sensuous, captivating account of a forbidden affair between two women" (People)--Eleanor Roosevelt and "first friend" Lorena Hickok.Lorena Hickok meets Eleanor Roosevelt in 1932 while reporting on Franklin Roosevelt's first presidential campaign. Having grown up worse than poor in South Dakota and reinven...

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Title:White Houses
Author:Amy Bloom
Rating:

White Houses Reviews

  • Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader & Traveling Sister

    🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

    My grandmother had a saying that what you were doing when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve is what you will be doing all year long. I always thought it was some kind of scare tactic. 😂 I shared that with some of my book friends, and they were told a similar saying, but instead it’s what you do on New Year’s Day. I’ll take that and run with it because I was reading

    book on

    day, and

    🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

    My grandmother had a saying that what you were doing when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve is what you will be doing all year long. I always thought it was some kind of scare tactic. 😂 I shared that with some of my book friends, and they were told a similar saying, but instead it’s what you do on New Year’s Day. I’ll take that and run with it because I was reading

    book on

    day, and you know what that means?! I’m in for a bang-up reading year! 🙌

    Amy Bloom knows how to weave a story. I don’t even think it took me a full paragraph to become immersed. White Houses is told from Lorena Hickok’s point of view, as if she’s talking right to you and telling you the story. What a life she has to share with the reader. She had a tough childhood infused with abuse and abandonment, but wow, did she ever come out swinging as a journalist for Associated Press asked to cover FDR’s first run for president.

    This book is about Lorena Hickok’s life, but even more than that, it’s a tale of friendship, devotion, and love; love between Lorena and Eleanor Roosevelt. This is a work of fiction, and I had to remind myself of that repeatedly. It truly reads like the most fascinating memoir. While I now know there are a large number of letters available between Lorena and Eleanor, there’s a lot left to interpretation, which historians have long-debated. In this book, whether it’s true or not, it was genuine and immersive. I was mesmerized by their love for each other- hook, line, and sinker.

    I want to be careful, though, and say that this book is NOT a romance, nor is it a historical romance. It’s most definitely historical fiction with a strong backdrop of early 20th century life- from The World’s Fair, the Lindbergh kidnapping, and FDR’s presidency (and his affairs...). It just so happens that an alluring companionship between Eleanor and Lorena unfolds within these pages.

    Thank you a million times to Amy Bloom, Random House, and Netgalley for the early copy.

  • Elyse

    The writing by Amy Bloom in “White Houses” is beautiful.....soooo lovely!!!

    We learn a lot about Lorena Hickok, American journalist: her troubled childhood in South Dakota of sexual abuse - abandonment- poverty - and starting out on her own from an early age.

    Lorena also disclosed her relationship with Eleanor Roosevelt. — All from Lorena Hickok’s perspective. Sure feels real to me... but it’s written as fiction. Amy Bloom did tremendous research - she went through three THOUSAND letters alone -

    The writing by Amy Bloom in “White Houses” is beautiful.....soooo lovely!!!

    We learn a lot about Lorena Hickok, American journalist: her troubled childhood in South Dakota of sexual abuse - abandonment- poverty - and starting out on her own from an early age.

    Lorena also disclosed her relationship with Eleanor Roosevelt. — All from Lorena Hickok’s perspective. Sure feels real to me... but it’s written as fiction. Amy Bloom did tremendous research - she went through three THOUSAND letters alone - plus diaries - etc.

    We get history - read a little about Eleanor’s marriage - her children - the loss of her baby - living in the White House - Franklin’s death and funeral - her daughter Anna - Amelia Earhart....and the women Franklin had affairs with: Lucy Mercer and Missy LeHand.

    I found myself looking up all the female - relations - to both Eleanor and Franklin on Google — just to see if there was anything new I might learn. The storytelling got me interested to know more. The sign of a good book.

    This thin - very intimate novel was easily imagined....and emotionally felt.

    At times I felt so sad - other times happy for the moments of blissful private hours these two women share together.

    Amy Bloom eloquently constructed a meditation on the power of love! This is a gorgeous love story — as much as any I’ve ever read!!!

    This is a magnificent excerpt:

    “Every women’s body is an intimate landscape. The hills, the valleys, the narrow ledges, the riverbanks, the sudden eruptions of soft or crinkling hair. Here are the plains, the fine dry slopes. Here are the woods, here is the smooth path to the only door I wish to walk through. Eleanor‘s body is the landscape of my true home”

    Thank You Random House, Netgalley, and Amy Bloom

  • Diane S ☔

    3.5 A fly on the wall, that is how I felt reading this novel. Told from the viewpoint of Hick, we are privvy to intimate glimpses of her relationship with Eleanor, as well as glimpses into the secrets of those living in the White House. Roosevelt and his harem, as Hick calls them, the way his polio was hidden, and the relationship he and Eleanor had with their children.

    The book opens a short time after Roosevelt's death, and circles back to this period often. This is very much Hicks story though

    3.5 A fly on the wall, that is how I felt reading this novel. Told from the viewpoint of Hick, we are privvy to intimate glimpses of her relationship with Eleanor, as well as glimpses into the secrets of those living in the White House. Roosevelt and his harem, as Hick calls them, the way his polio was hidden, and the relationship he and Eleanor had with their children.

    The book opens a short time after Roosevelt's death, and circles back to this period often. This is very much Hicks story though, so we also learn details of her early life, which doesn't make for pretty reading. She had a hard beginning, and in one part, though it is short lived there is some horrific happenings with a few animals, and sexual abuse. Difficult to read, and is easily skimmed over, but an important part of Hicks story, letting the reader understand what a determined individual she was, willing to fight for those she loved. Her determination to not give up let her to a life far above her beginnings.

    A poignant glimpse into her and Eleanor's relationships, the ups and downs, the need for secrecy, always aware of how others perceived their relationship. Amazing how many things were not written about back then, not reported, seems much easier to hide things then in current times. We also see history happening through Hicks eyes, the personality of Eleanor, and how she felt about what was happening in the world.

    The prose is wonderful, clear and concise, one of those books where not a word is wasted. I do think readers who love history, or the lives of Eleanor and Franklin, will like this book best. It is very well done.

    This was the December buddy read for Angela, Esil and myself. As always enjoyed our shared thoughts.

    ARC from Netgalley.

  • Esil

    White Houses is a fictionalized account of Eleanor Roosevelt's relationship with Lorena Hickok. The novel is narrated from Hickok's perspective. It's more of a character study than a story. Hickok recounts part of her childhood, and moves back and forth in time, always coming back to the few days following FDR's death. What made this worth reading to me were the writing and the sharply drawn personalities of these characters. Bloom makes it easy to understand what drew these women together and p

    White Houses is a fictionalized account of Eleanor Roosevelt's relationship with Lorena Hickok. The novel is narrated from Hickok's perspective. It's more of a character study than a story. Hickok recounts part of her childhood, and moves back and forth in time, always coming back to the few days following FDR's death. What made this worth reading to me were the writing and the sharply drawn personalities of these characters. Bloom makes it easy to understand what drew these women together and pulled them apart. And the last chapter was beautiful and heartbreaking.

    White Houses is a beautifully written impressionistic depiction of two women caught in a particular time in history. I knew nothing about this relationship and very little about Eleanor Roosevelt. It's always hard to know how true a work of historical fiction is to the characters or events it depicts. In this case, it's hard to tell but Bloom's depiction of these women has a convincing air of reality. I'm left wanting to read more about them -- especially Eleanor -- which is not a bad thing.

    A note of caution to anyone who is sensitive about child abuse and animal cruelty. There are a few difficult scenes early on dealing with Hickok's childhood.

    Another lovely monthly buddy read with Diane and Angela! And thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.

  • Larry H

    Fifty-five years after her death, and more than 70 years after she left the White House following her husband's death, Eleanor Roosevelt remains one of the most intriguing women in history. She certainly was a role model for trailblazing women not interested in being confined to the boxes in which society wants to contain them, but rather working to bring about change wherever it is needed.

    While much is known about her public persona, her personal life has always remained more of an enigma. Mor

    Fifty-five years after her death, and more than 70 years after she left the White House following her husband's death, Eleanor Roosevelt remains one of the most intriguing women in history. She certainly was a role model for trailblazing women not interested in being confined to the boxes in which society wants to contain them, but rather working to bring about change wherever it is needed.

    While much is known about her public persona, her personal life has always remained more of an enigma. More and more, it is understood that her marriage to FDR was more one of convenience than romance, and while his affairs were the stuff of gossip, hers, with women, were kept more secret.

    Perhaps Eleanor's most notable relationship was with Lorena "Hick" Hickok, once the most prominent female reporter in the U.S. Hick and Eleanor met in 1932 when Hick was covering FDR's campaign for president. Instantly smitten although the two come from vastly different worlds—the patrician Eleanor was both enchanted and horrified by Hick's rough-and-tumble exterior—after spending some time together their friendship deepens into intimacy.

    Hick moves into the White House and becomes known as Eleanor's "first friend." Their relationship is as talked about within White House circles as FDR's are, but the president seems content if his wife is, and he gives Hick a job within the administration. And while it is clear both women love each other, Eleanor is conflicted about her feelings for Hick, her role as First Lady, and whether she should continue to enjoy her relationship, or whether she isn't a suitable match, and if she should set Hick free.

    Amy Bloom's

    is a fictionalized account of the decades-long relationship between two women who have seen so much, yet still find wonder in each other, even at a time where such relationships could mean ruin. It's a story about how the power of love isn't always enough to see you through, but the strength of a friendship can power a relationship. It's also a story of a woman who grew up poorer than poor finds herself in the midst of a life she couldn't even begin to dream of, yet she can't have everything she wants.

    "I wasn't in love with Eleanor. We had agreed that 'in love' had burned out after four years for us, the way it does for most of us, in two months or two years and, I guess, never for some lucky people. Instead of a trail of fire roaring through, those people get small candles steadily lighting the way home until death do they part, and only the young are stupid enough to think that those two old people, him gimping, her squinting, are not in love. I got by. I lived amputated, which sounds worse than it felt. I learned to do all kinds of large and small tasks, with part of me missing, and I feel pretty sure that the people who watched me in the world thought that I was entirely able-bodied."

    follows the two women through three decades of their relationship, and flashes back to Hick's hardscrabble childhood and young adulthood, where she learned how to fend for herself. Although it moves a little slowly at times, it's a poignant love story and a look at history that I found fascinating, moving, and thought-provoking. Hick is brash and confident, yet she has a tender, vulnerable side that Eleanor often brings out in her, while Eleanor had two faces—the public woman bent on saving the world, and the private woman who just wanted to be loved but didn't know if she was worthy.

    I have been a big fan of Amy Bloom's for a number of years and find her writing absolutely dazzling. This book is beautifully written, and while I didn't completely warm to Bloom's last few historical novels, preferring her more modern fiction, I really enjoyed this one. Her words conveyed the emotional conflict, the longing, and the protectiveness both women felt, and brought so much depth to this story.

    NetGalley and Random House provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

    See all of my reviews at

    .

  • Angela M

    Whenever I read fictionalized accounts of famous people I always wonder about what really happened. I especially wonder about their conversations and I have to keep reminding myself that I'm reading a work of fiction. Amy Bloom in this wonderfully written book, imagines the relationship between Eleanor Roosevelt and Lenora Hickok, an AP reporter who becomes Eleanor's "first friend" and actually for a time moves into the White House. While I did wonder here what actually happened and what was ima

    Whenever I read fictionalized accounts of famous people I always wonder about what really happened. I especially wonder about their conversations and I have to keep reminding myself that I'm reading a work of fiction. Amy Bloom in this wonderfully written book, imagines the relationship between Eleanor Roosevelt and Lenora Hickok, an AP reporter who becomes Eleanor's "first friend" and actually for a time moves into the White House. While I did wonder here what actually happened and what was imagined, what their relationship was really like, the story definitely has a real feel to it and almost reads like Lorena's memoir as it is told from her point of view. The two could not have come from more opposite backgrounds and while we get glimpses from their conversations of the privileged, upper crust family that Eleanor was raised in, we get more details about Lenora's sad childhood of poverty and abuse.

    The narrative moves back and forth from the 1945, just after FDR died as Eleanor summons Lenora to her side. They have not been together for a long time, but their beginnings and past relationship is told by Lenora and we get a better understanding of what these two women meant to each other. The joyful descriptions of their trips together as well as other times spent together in the White House depict a loving relationship. I couldn't help but be thankful that Eleanor had Lenora as her solace, while FDR carried on his extramarital affairs in the White House and their children always seeming to favor their father. Another aspect of the book that I really liked was how through their story, the time and events around them are depicted such as the Depression and some interesting things about The Lindbergh kidnapping.

    I was hoping that Bloom would have included sources. Since what I read is an advanced copy, I hope that in the final version they will be listed . I did enjoy it for sure. It's 3.5+ stars for me and that reflects my own dilemma with this type of book, based on real people, but I have to move it up to 4 stars because the writing is not to be missed.

    Thanks once again to Diane and Esil for another terrific read together, which we have made into a monthly event.

    I received an advanced copy of this book from Random House Publishing Group - Random House through NetGalley.

  • Karen

    This book is a work of fiction based on the relationship of Eleanor Roosevelt and her long time friend and companion, Lorena Hickock. Lorena’s voice narrates this story.

    They both seemed to be lost souls that found together, what they both never had in life, and it was written in a beautiful and intimate way.

    Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for the advanced copy!

  • Cheri

    !! NOW AVAILABLE !!

    --

    lyrics by Kathy Mattea

    When Franklin D. Roosevelt was campaigning to become the 32nd President, Lorena Hickok was one of many reporters covering his campaign. Through this, she meets, and is befriended by Eleanor Roosevelt, despite their vast differences, economically an

    !! NOW AVAILABLE !!

    --

    lyrics by Kathy Mattea

    When Franklin D. Roosevelt was campaigning to become the 32nd President, Lorena Hickok was one of many reporters covering his campaign. Through this, she meets, and is befriended by Eleanor Roosevelt, despite their vast differences, economically and scholastically. Where Lorena Hickok, or “Hick” as she was called, was raised in an impoverished part of South Dakota, among the poorest of the poor, sexually abused, physically abused, and always, always hungry. Eleanor was raised without need. Hick worked in a man’s world, and could be brash and sometimes vulgar. Eleanor was the poster woman for compassion and endurance.

    Their friendship may not have been rooted in conventional backgrounds, but their friendship blossomed, nevertheless. After FDR’s election, her status as “first friend” was a well know, if not openly acknowledged, state of affairs. And as this relationship deepens into more than just infatuation, more than just friendship, their bond becomes something seemingly unbreakable.

    Amy Bloom gives us a glimpse into the private lives of these two public women, and the love they shared behind closed doors. What Bloom does bring to this is a wonderful insight into the times, and how these two women met and were irresistibly drawn to the other, seeing in each other the pieces that were missing in their lives. How their love changes over time. It is a love song, with a lifetime of verses.

    Throughout, this story is relayed with a bit of veneration for their beautiful life-long love, a wonderfully imagined and told story of love. The writing seems subtly perceptive, if not consistently elevated, but there are moments, most notably the final chapter, which were so beautifully written that it took my breath away.

    Pub Date 13 Feb 2018

    Many thanks for the ARC provided by Random House Publishing Group - Random House

  • Debbie

    I forgot I don’t like historical fiction that’s based on famous people. Why was my memory snoozing when I picked up this book? I remember (of course, too late) that I swore off reading such books after I finished

    and suddenly thought Mark Twain was a jerk. I used to like Mark Twain, but after reading that book, where it shows how he ruined his mistress’s life, I hate his guts. I even researched the facts a little, and yep, it appears he really was a basta

    I forgot I don’t like historical fiction that’s based on famous people. Why was my memory snoozing when I picked up this book? I remember (of course, too late) that I swore off reading such books after I finished

    and suddenly thought Mark Twain was a jerk. I used to like Mark Twain, but after reading that book, where it shows how he ruined his mistress’s life, I hate his guts. I even researched the facts a little, and yep, it appears he really was a bastard. But I didn’t want to know that! Erase, erase, erase that reading experience!

    You see, when I finish reading a fictional book about a famous person, my head insists on thinking that I’ve just read the whole truth and nothing but the truth. That the characters’ personalities, words, and actions are the exact same as those of the real people. Beep! This is not right! How to get my head to just stop that?! How to explain to my head that the story may resemble history but could be embellished and exaggerated bigtime? How much was added for the sake of drama? And how much of the story is from the author’s imagination?

    Luckily, this story is based on a fact that isn’t disputed: Eleanor Roosevelt and a female journalist, Lorena Hickok (called Hick), had a prolonged love affair. The book doesn’t create a negative image of either woman; its purpose is just to illuminate their scandalous love affair. The fact that Hick and Eleanor came from such opposite backgrounds makes their love story even richer.

    Oh, and before I bring out the Joy Jar and the Complaint Board, I need to say wow, people other than the president’s family get to live in the White House?? Does that still happen these days? Hick lived there five years! I actually checked out that fact and it appears to be true. Hick must have been shaking her head, moving from the depths of squalor to the heights of luxury. How bizarre that must have been!

    It was smooth sailing and I’d stop now and then just to admire a phrase.

    Hick is the one telling the story. To me, first-person narration always makes the story more believable and it usually makes me feel cozy with the storyteller. (Ha! I like that the story was more believable, yet we’re talking about a fictional character resembling a real person. See what I mean about my not being able to separate a fictional character from the person it is based on?!)

    Tasteful and eloquent. No graphic sex, no drama for drama’s sake. Even in the first half of the book, where Hick is describing her tough past, the story never veers into high-drama land. The concentration is on how much they cared about each other and how they had to keep their relationship a secret—as much as they could. This was an era when being gay was not accepted, of course, so secret was the name of the game.

    And I also got a sense of the lives of the rich and famous. I was at times fascinated, at times bored, with the details of the good life. The life of the filthy rich equals vacations, flowers, comfort, multi-coursed meals, tea, maids, country houses, high ceilings, gardens, gold trimming, abundance, fanfare, elaborate everything.

    It’s intense and powerful. We learn about Hick’s incredibly brutal life—sexual abuse, poverty, and neglect were mainstays. Oh, and she had a stint in a circus, which is completely fascinating. As is true of the whole book, her life story is handled without over-the-top drama, which is impressive.

    I was all jazzed up after reading about Hick’s early life, but the second half of the book made me go still. The story never seems to boil again. It’s sort of the same thing over and over. It’s clear that there is lots of love between them, but the descriptions seem somewhat monotonous and flat.

    Well, I’m making that sound all dramatic when it really isn’t. I think there were three timeframes and we had to jump from one to the other without much help. I got confused; the jumpiness made the story seem a little scattered.

    It was a low dose, okay? This was a general feeling I had, which I couldn’t exactly pinpoint. I think maybe it’s because Hick described what she loved about Eleanor, but we never hear from Eleanor and we never see a whole lot of interaction. It’s mostly Hick describing how much she cares for Eleanor. Come to think of it, maybe that is a problem with first-person narration. But the toned-down passion kept me at a distance. I didn’t ever feel like I was in the same room with them and I didn’t really feel much sympathy.

    She seemed too tough and self-centered. I’d also describe her as abrasive, unfriendly, and somewhat stoic. Maybe that’s another reason I felt distant from her and the story. It’s easy to understand her tough veneer, given her brutal childhood, but I just didn’t like her much.

    I liked Amy Bloom’s writing enough that I would definitely read another of her books. I’m rating this one 3.5. A good read, but too many entries on the Complaint Board to grant it 4 stars. When I was done reading, I uttered a meh.

    Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy.

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