The Residence. Finished 4-20-15, rating 4.5/5, history/politics, 320 pages, pub. 2015
Thanks to Trish at TLC Book Tours for inviting me to be a part of this book tour. I received the book in exchange for my thoughts (and thankfully my thoughts are good :))
America’s First Families are unknowable in many ways. No one has insight into their true character like the people who serve their meals and make their beds every day. Full of stories and details by turns dramatic, humorous, and heartwarming, The Residence reveals daily life in the White House as it is really lived through the voices of the maids, butlers, cooks, florists, doormen, engineers, and others who tend to the needs of the President and First Family.
These dedicated professionals maintain the six-floor mansion’s 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, 28 fireplaces, three elevators, and eight staircases, and prepare everything from hors d’oeuvres for intimate gatherings to meals served at elaborate state dinners. Over the course of the day, they gather in the lower level’s basement kitchen to share stories, trade secrets, forge lifelong friendships, and sometimes even fall in love. from Goodreads
I like keeping up with current politics, so reading this book that spans 50+ years of White House inside information was fun for me. The stories from the full-time and part-time workers who make the first family’s time in the White House run smoothly were told with pride. I loved hearing about the bullying Johnson, the warm Bushes (the first ones there), the partying Clintons, the domineering Nancy, and secret scene of the Obamas first night in America’s house.
I had no idea that the White House was designed by James Hoban, who won a competition planned by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and that it was built on the backs of slaves being paid in pork, bread and whiskey. In 1941 the annual budget was $152,000 and today it comes in around $13 million. That’s a lot of inflation! I was surprised to learn that with all that money in the budget the first family is still required to pay for their move into and out of the White House and pay for all the food that they and their friends eat (I always assumed we were feeding them). President Carter didn’t think so much tax payer money needed to go to flowers (in other administrations $50,000 for state dinner flowers was the norm) so he sent the staff out to parks to find flowers, with one staffer even being arrested. It was stories like these that had me chuckling.
The staff does their best to make each and every family, regardless of party, feel at home. They take pride in serving not only the first family but representing the United States at state dinners and when taking care of the dignitaries from around the world. I loved these behind-the-scenes looks at the best and worst of times. I was shocked at the complete chaos on 9-11.
I was struck by how Brower wrote about the discretion of the workers on one page and then included unflattering tidbits about the children a page or two later. I felt like the Chelsea and Secret Service story was disrespectful in a way that she tried to avoid in the rest of the book. There was another story of some bong-loving sons that I felt didn’t need to be included either. She went out of her way to paint them in a positive light later, but I wish she could have saved the unflattering stories for the President and First Lady.
Definitely worth reading for anyone with an interest in history, the White House, or even current politics.
Oh, and there’s still a few days to enter the Goodreads giveaway.