What if Hillary hadn’t married Bill? That’s the attention-grabbing hook of Curtis Sittenfeld’s latest novel, Rodham, which duly sent it soaring into the bestseller charts.
In real life, Bill Clinton asked Hillary Rodham to marry him three times before she finally said yes. The rest is history. But in Sittenfeld’s alternative world, Hillary says no, and their lives diverge from there. Hillary is alone and heartbroken, but she’s also free to pursue her own political ambitions – and free from the humiliating sexual scandals that will plague Bill’s political career.
Sittenfeld deftly mines the ‘What if?” possibilities of her premise, but does the novel live up to the hype? Or is it just literary fan fiction? An exercise in wishful thinking?
Journalist Phil Chaffee joins us to give Rodham the full book club treatment. It’s a no holds barred discussion as we try to figure out whether the novel is an ingenious yet plausible glimpse of an alternative reality, or just a writer capitalising on a famous name.
After the discussion, keep listening for our follow-on recommendations for your next book club book, all inspired by Rodham.
- American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
- Becoming by Michelle Obama
- What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton
- ‘Up, Simba’ from Consider the Lobster and Other Essays by David Foster Wallace
- Political Fictions by Joan Didion
- Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin
Other books mentioned
- Prep, Sisterland and You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld
- Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
Highly recommended viewing is Hulu’s 4-part documentary on Hillary Clinton, that aired in the UK on Sky.