January 29, 2017

Loving Eleanor - Susan Wittig Albert

Persevero Press, February 1, 2016.


Three Stars


Lorena “Hick” Hickok, one of the first female AP reporters in the 1930s, narrates this novel about her lifelong relationship with Eleanor Roosevelt. Throughout Eleanor’s husband’s campaigns and presidency, to Eleanor’s own work in service to the American people, Hick stood by her with love and friendship. Now, at the end of her life, Hick has decided to tell the true story of her love for Eleanor.


In 1932, Hick was assigned with covering the presidential campaign and election. During her time spent following Franklin Roosevelt, she became close with his wife Eleanor and learned that her marriage was mostly for political show. Although Franklin was involved in a long-term affair with his secretary, Eleanor was trapped in the marriage and prevented from finding her own lover. The two women form a bond of mutual respect that develops into a strong friendship – and eventually into romantic passion.


With the backdrop of the Great Depression, FDR’s New Deal, and World War II, we see through Hick’s eyes that Eleanor Roosevelt was a strong, intelligent, complex woman in her own right. Hick is willing to give up everything for Eleanor, but the First Lady is committed to her role as co-leader of the country – not just as a figurehead, but by actually making positive change in the world.  


This is of course a fictional memoir of Hick, as she describes her time “loving Eleanor.” She explains what their relationship meant for her own life and career, as well as the ways that she influenced Eleanor – especially in her advocacy for women. Love is an important part of the story, but the novel is truly about these two strong women whose paths collide as they attempt to change the world. Despite the historical setting, this is an easy, accessible read.


As Eleanor and Hick mature, their relationship becomes less stormy and passionate, and instead settles into an enduring friendship, which has been captured in the thousands of letters that passed between the two women. Although these letters are part of the historical record (and of course open to interpretation), I had no idea that the romantic relationship between Eleanor and Hick is considered to be factual by most historians. After reading this, I look forward to learning more about Eleanor Roosevelt and the policies she helped to create.


Although I was interested by the historical aspects of this novel, it is ultimately a love story – showing all the phases of a relationship and how it perseveres in the face of obstacles. I appreciated the story, but I didn’t like the tone of the novel, which rang false and even seemed a bit juvenile at times. Regardless, it was still well worth the read.


I received this book from Persevero Press and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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