February is Black History Month, while March is known to be Women’s History Month. Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley is someone people should know about. She was born a slave, earned her freedom by the skill of a needle and then won the friendship of First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln with her devotion and became her modiste.
There are some books you love, and there are some books you hate while others are just ok. Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini were all those for me. It starts off with Elizabeth Keckley on Election Day hurrying home fearing for her safety being a freedwoman and wanting to be home before curfew. It delves into her unhappy married life, being the seamstress to Mrs. Jefferson Davis, Mrs. Robert E. Lee and becoming confidant and modiste to Mary Todd Lincoln.
However, it’s as if there were two parts of the book. Somewhere in the middle it became disengaging with the historical accounts of the Civil War and the battles fought, which seemed to take up much of the 352 pages in the book. It would have been better if it was only about 200 pages writing only about Keckley and Keckley's relationship with the Lincoln's.
Sadly, it wasn’t until the assassination of President Lincoln where the book picked up momentum and got to be interesting again with the life of Keckley, and how much she was looking out for the best interest in Mrs. Lincoln due to not receiving any income from the government after Lincoln’s assassination, and the fallout they had when Mrs. Lincoln no longer sustained Keckley’s friendship from a book Keckley wrote about Lincoln and the truth, which got twisted.
The front jacket photo by Jeff Cottenden portrays the First Lady to be more of a young, beautiful Kate Winslet rather than a plain, plump Mary Todd Lincoln that she was in life.
Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker is Jennifer Chiaverini’s first work of historical fiction, which is fascinating at times but slow moving at others.
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For more information regarding Jennifer Chiaverini, please visit her website at http://www.elmcreek.net.
For more information regarding Jeff Cottenden, please visit his website at http://www.jeffcottenden.co.uk.