Thursday, January 30, 2014
A Book Review of Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker
Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini is a historical novel about the life of Elizabeth Keckley, Mrs. Mary Lincoln's personal modiste (dressmaker). Born a slave, Mrs. Keckley eventually earns her freedom and goes on to open her own dressmaking business in Washington. With elite clients including senators' and generals' wives, Elizabeth is eventually given the opportunity to dress Abraham Lincoln's wife. Over the years, she becomes much more than Mrs. President's modiste but a companion, nurse to her children, and a trusted friend. The story is a fascinating account of a woman's perseverance to rise above her circumstances, as well as different perspectives of how the Civil War affected the lives of various characters. It shares Mary Todd Lincoln's battle with mental stability, President Lincoln's integrity and compassion, Elizabeth's mulatto son's desire to fight for others' freedom, and the former slaves who must learn the harsh lessons of what it's like to be free. The novel is woven in such a way that you almost don't realize you're being taught a history lesson. For me, it provided new insights into the price of freedom, a deeper appreciation for the wisdom of a humble president, and a great opportunity for discussion with Caleb who read Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly late last year.