At the centre of this novel is the fictionalised account of the love story between Eleanor Roosevelt and journalist Lorena Hickok. It is told in the first person by Lorena, or Hick as most people seem to have called her, and it starts with them getting together again just after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945. There are then flashbacks to various episodes in Hick’s life and in her relationship with Eleanor. These are mixed with Hick’s feelings during the meeting in 1945 which she knows is crucial to their future relationship.
It is a moving and convincing picture of the relationship, but it does concentrate on Hick’s life rather than Eleanor’s. While this is interesting – and affecting, in the particular regarding the abuse in her childhood – I would have liked more about Eleanor and her relationship with FDR.
I thought it very well written, with a great sense of the period of the 30s and 40s. This comes over through descriptions of the historical events but also by capturing the attitudes of the times when any hint of a lesbian relationship had to hidden.
This would be a great choice for a book group as there is plenty to discuss, not only about the characters and style – and the choice of the first person narrative – but also about fictionalising real people and their relationships.
Berwyn Peet 4/4
White Houses by Amy Bloom
Granta Books 9781783784929 hbk Apr 2018