It was a hard life for Mary Todd Lincoln. Unpopular and criticized by the nation, Abraham Lincoln's beloved wife needed a confidante and friend. She found that in Elizabeth Keckley, the woman that made her beautiful dresses. In "Mrs Lincoln's Dressmaker" by Jennifer Chiaverini, the friendship between the First Lady of the United States and a former slave turned dressmaker is explored.
"Mrs Lincoln's Dressmaker" follows Elizabeth's journey into becoming the dressmaker, confidante, and friend of Mary Todd Lincoln. The novel explores how the former slave bought her freedom and came to Washington and became a famous dressmaker to the important women of the city. When Elizabeth catches the eye of Mary Todd Lincoln, her life is changed forever. Elizabeth not only dresses the First Lady in beautiful gowns, she becomes an honorary member of the Lincoln family. Elizabeth helps take care of Mary's son when he is ill, offers kind words to President Lincoln, and becomes a cherished friend to the lonely and disillusioned First Lady. The assassination of President Lincoln changes things forever for Elizabeth and Mary. Mary, trapped in her sorrow after her husband's death and mounting debt, disappears into a bitter and sad woman while Elizabeth betrays the trust of Mary by writing a memoir that reveals secrets and breaks their friendship forever. This novel explores how a former slave's life changed forever because of the beautiful dresses she sewed, dresses that created a friendship and bond that would fascinate history forever.
"Mrs Lincoln's Dressmaker" is a lovely novel. The novel explores the special bond between Mary Todd Lincoln and Elizabeth Keckley and does so beautifully. Chiaverini powerfully portrays the friendship between the two very different women and particularly highlights how the First Lady depended on Elizabeth. Chiaverini really brings to life the bond between the two women.
Chiaverini's portrayal of Mary Todd Lincoln is also very special. She captures the woman's frustration and sadness at how those in Washington treated her, her adoration of her husband, her love for her children, and her absolute despair when she loses everything that matters in her life from her husband to her young son. Chiaverini's Mary Todd Lincoln isn't unlikable or insane, but complex.
The portrayal of Elizabeth does fall flat. She is the main character of the novel, but readers may find that they never truly know her. She feels like a passive character in a story about her life. It is only when she is with Mary that she comes to life and is an interesting character.
"Mrs Lincoln's Dollmaker" is a strong and well-written novel. It will move readers to see such a powerful and moving female friendship portrayed.
To purchase "Mrs Lincoln's Dressmaker": http://www.amazon.com/Mrs-Lincolns-Dressmaker-Jennifer-Chiaverini/dp/0525953612
For more information on Jennifer Chiaverini: http://elmcreek.net/