Blog Book Tour | “The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House” by Kate Andersen Brower A #bookblogger who adored #TheWestWing on tv and The American President on the silver screen, digs happily inside ‘The Residence’!

Posted Monday, 27 April, 2015 by jorielov , , , 2 Comments

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I was selected to be a tour stop on “The Residence” virtual book tour through TLC Book Tours. I received a complimentary hardback copy of the book direct from the publisher Harper (an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers), in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein. 

Books which stimulate a keen interest in their subjects:

It is not a widely known fact amongst my circle of friends, but I take after my Mum in regards to my love and curiosity about Presidential History! I grew up carting around a trivia book about the then 40 Presidents of the United States, as I was fascinated by the ‘little stories’ surrounding the men who worked inside the White House. My classmates and I, took learning the Presidents during fourth grade to a whole new level whilst we created our own trivia to remind us of the presidential ‘quirks’ and ‘personality traits’ that could help us score higher on our oral exams. Thereby, I would always remember some of the more curious trivia surrounding the Presidents as a whole, but definitely knew if your going out in the rain, sleet, or snow, best to wear a hat, coat, and gloves if you want to forestall an early demise! Singularly William H. Harrison (our 9th President) would be entombed forever for precipitating his own death, at least to my class of fourth graders! Taft on the other hand, gave us endless pleasure in making ‘pretend taffy’ whilst Hoover gave new meaning to what vacuum cleaners are known as across the Pond!

Visiting the Presidential Libraries is not just a prospect and dream of my Mum’s but one I share with her, as I love libraries in general, but there are certain collections inspired by the Presidents that I felt would be quite wicked lovely to visit! I haven’t yet had the pleasure to go to them, but I have visited my first ‘hometown’ of a President without planning too as Hope, Arkansas will remain the city that welcomed in travellers who needed assistance and gave back their hearts. Similarly, like the author Ms Brower I have long held a curiosity of sorts for those who work both upstairs / downstairs in large houses, estates, or castles — where the living proximity is tight but the depth of the divisions can be quite large.

This might explain why I have a penchant for these sorts of stories in motion pictures, as like the author, yes, I did draw a keen eye into the world Downton Abbey before the series broke my heart when Matthew died and crushed my soul a bit when certain story-lines from Series 4 were introduced. My heart has yet to be able to return, and thus, I might not see Series 5 or 6 as a result. However, it isn’t just my fascination with this particular era of history nor of the setting therein, as I loved watching The American President starring Michael Douglas, Annette Bening, and Martin Sheen. Sheen reprised his role on a tv series by the same creator settling into the role of the President on The West Wing. I loved the series, sharing an equal joy of it with my grandmother, except she was able to maintain an active viewing of it wherein I lost track of where I was in the episodes.

Overall, it is the stories of the everyday hours that seem to get lost in the shuffle. The little bits of ordinary life which barely have the chance to surfacing because there is always something much more dire and urgent to reveal instead. I understand the politics of the exclusions, but sometimes, it is quite nice to see a humbling view of a world that very few are allowed to enter, and to see a mark of their humanity as left behind by those who knew them best.

Blog Book Tour | “The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House” by Kate Andersen Brower A #bookblogger who adored #TheWestWing on tv and The American President on the silver screen, digs happily inside ‘The Residence’!The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House
by Kate Andersen Brower
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours

A remarkable history with elements of both In the President’s Secret Service and The Butler, The Residence offers an intimate account of the service staff of the White House, from the Kennedys to the Obamas.

America’s First Families are unknowable in many ways. No one has insight into their true character like the people who serve their meals and make their beds every day. Full of stories and details by turns dramatic, humorous, and heartwarming, The Residence reveals daily life in the White House as it is really lived through the voices of the maids, butlers, cooks, florists, doormen, engineers, and others who tend to the needs of the President and First Family.

These dedicated professionals maintain the six-floor mansion’s 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, 28 fireplaces, three elevators, and eight staircases, and prepare everything from hors d’oeuvres for intimate gatherings to meals served at elaborate state dinners. Over the course of the day, they gather in the lower level’s basement kitchen to share stories, trade secrets, forge lifelong friendships, and sometimes even fall in love.

Combining incredible first-person anecdotes from extensive interviews with scores of White House staff members—many speaking for the first time—with archival research, Kate Andersen Brower tells their story. She reveals the intimacy between the First Family and the people who serve them, as well as tension that has shaken the staff over the decades. From the housekeeper and engineer who fell in love while serving President Reagan to Jackie Kennedy’s private moment of grief with a beloved staffer after her husband’s assassination to the tumultuous days surrounding President Nixon’s resignation and President Clinton’s impeachment battle, The Residence is full of surprising and moving details that illuminate day-to-day life at the White House.

Genres: Current Events, Non-Fiction, Presidential Life & History

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9780062305206

Published by Harper Books

on 7th April, 2015

Pages: 320

Jorie Loves A Story Cuppa Book Love Awards Badge created by Jorie in Canva. Coffee and Tea Clip Art Set purchased on Etsy; made by rachelwhitetoo.Published by: Harper Books (@harperbooks)
an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers (@HarperCollins)
Available Formats: Hardback, Audiobook and Ebook

Converse via: #TheResidence

About Kate Andersen Brower

Kate Andersen Brower spent four years covering the Obama White House for Bloomberg News and is a former CBS News staffer and Fox News producer. She lives outside Washington, D.C., with her husband and their two young children.

Bloomberg Politics interview with Kate Andersen Brower on The Residence

via Bloomberg Business

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On the Author’s Notes of Acknowledgement and the Introduction:

I flipped to the back of the ARC seeking out a bit of information on behalf of the author, Brower, and happily found the notes of acknowledgement section, as the index is not included, but the full bibliography for continuing to read about the Presidents and the designated reference points per chapter are included with both the acknowledgements and author’s biography. What I appreciated is getting to see a bit inside the author’s head whilst she broached this subject for the book to her agent and publisher alike; to see how the idea for it originated but also, how she went about undertaking the research to gain clarity and insight into this hidden from view world!

Most of her book is based on the conversations she had with the staff and residences directly, which to me felt to be the most realistic approach you could take, because it is an oral history being that it’s still alive and living not only for those who served the Presidents and their families but for the presidential families themselves! The best kinds of histories we can pass down to each other, whether within our own immediate family or the world, are the stories of our everyday lives. The stories that seek to unite us through our differences and prove how much we happen to have in common at the very same time. Little pinnacles of humanity stitched inside stories of how life was lived in the most famous ‘house’ but without the lens of the public sounded to me like a book I would love reading!

A sombering truth emerges out of the introduction, as although it was oft said I was a ‘throwback to the 60s’, the mere fact remains I was not bourne in that decade but the one following it; the guttingly horrid moment JFK was killed has been a handed down tragedy. Brower re-tells the day of the President’s death in such a sombering detailed account on behalf of the doorman, it proves how personal the staff and the Presidents were connected inasmuch as how much breadth of conviction the staff have to be in their places at a time where nothing will ever remain the same as before; it was a testament of the doorman’s friendship with the President how much he wanted to be there for his wife on her return, but more than that, it is a small window into this world; a world wholly unto it’s own and unknown by us who live outside her walls.

This isn’t your traditional non-fiction release, as I remember when it first arrived by Post; I was betwixt knowing if it were fiction or non-fiction, because it had within it’s essence the best of both! As I started to reading the pages, I noted that Brower allows the facts to fade out of focus, giving the stories a lot of leeway to be read as if you were either reading a journal or a memoir; to knit inside this world as re-told by the men and women who lived it. For me, this was the most heart-warming centering of joy she could have given the readers, because generally speaking most non-fiction is a bit difficult to soak inside as it’s traditionally more fact than prose; Brower has found a happy medium between both styles of crafting a story, and for that, I am grateful!

I was a bit surprised by how the layout and the rooms of the grounds were openly discussed, as previously I hadn’t heard of an exactness of layout much less a visual map of where everything was located but it was quite entertaining to realise just how large of a labyrinth the White House staff work inside each day! I did know of the smallness of the White House kitchen, as I’m a reader who is quite fond of Julie Hyzy’s White House Chef mystery series! To this day, ever since I first read the initial three novels of the series, I am amazed into shock how the kitchen staff can perform such wonders of foodie delights out of a space that is dearly too small! Quite happy to see the inclusion of Mrs Clinton’s attempt to make Chelsea eggs as that is one of the stories I had remembered hearing prior to reading this account.

My review of The Residence:

Brower has found a way to bring up the moments that readers would appreciate the most in reading from a non-fictional account of Presidential life as lived by the staff who take care of the Presidents and their families; in the first chapter, she explores the coordination of switching out Presidential belongings as coordinated by the inaugurations. Little do most know, that behind the show on tv wherein we’re all meeting the First Family as they are being sworn into office, the entire staff back at the White House is trying to ensure their arrival home truly will have the heart-warming touch of ‘being home’. I had a feeling this is when the shift takes place, because it truly makes sense: prior to the inaugurations, when would there be time to make the switch!? I do think they should re-think the policy on not hiring  professional movers, as I was a bit aghast one of the staff members severely injured his back simply due to the fact no one from the outside is allowed to be brought in to help. To me, as they take care of everything else, why not allow people who regularly move hearth and home to aide the staff once every four to eight years!?

I liked finding out the smaller details, such as when Mrs Obama wanted her girls to learn how to do their own laundry or how as a family, they were not used to having staff and thereby the change was harder to adjust too. The book pans forward through both re-collective narrative and snippets of conversations where dialogue is inserted in-step to the reflections; giving you a sense that this is part memoir and part oral history at the same time. As I was reading it, it was almost as though Brower was acting as the historian for the White House from the point of view of the House itself, as the inter-locking memories were contained to a singular place yet evolved through time over many faces, voices, and cognitive remembrances by those who worked there. She found a pace that is befitting to those who love soaking inside historical fiction as much as those who appreciate political non-fiction – in doing this, she has anchoured herself to two worlds rather than one.

You are pulling back the veil on time itself as you settle into the finer points of how Jackie Kennedy re-designed the house to be a better reflection of her own personal style rather than the style that had simply ‘kept on’ for such a time until it took her eye to notice it needed refreshing. To how difficult it was for her to leave the house and for the Johnson’s to come in so shortly after the tragic loss. The different points of view keep shifting forward and backwards as you go further into The Residence as the sections are separated by a common thread of topic or moment of what was happening inside the house itself. Brower has a subtle conviction for telling the honesty of the memories but with the emotional hearts still tethered; an intricate weaving of the stories as if they were happening right now.

The quirkiness of this portrait of Americana life is how very human the Presidents, their wives, and their children truly were as they lived in the most infamous of ‘houses’. I think people tend to forget their human attributes and the little things that make you realise how normal they are even if they have the most abnormal vocation. Here I refer to the fact being a President brings with it a different set of rules and a different manner in which to live due to the nature of the job. It’s not quite a normal existence by half and it’s quite a difficult bridge to cross when your plucked out of your ordinary life — as told through various accounts by different Presidents. It’s not something that is in your nature to take as ‘normal’ but it’s a humbled experience by the honour in which the staff provides the Presidents’ and their families. The staff I believe now are not only integral to providing the normalcy the Presidents’ and their families deserve but they truly are their newfound family away from ‘home’.

A family by definition accepts you just as you are, warts and all, and as you will read throughout The Residence there are plenty of instances where tempers flared or intolerance for having a certain ‘kind of’ something fixed or adjusted might have brought tension to the staff, but in each instance of being tested, the staff themselves proved their worth by realising what was more important. The importance they placed on the welfare of the Presidents and of their families is commendable because they truly put them first in all regards, and themselves a mere second. How they even sorted out the layout is beyond me, because it’s such a complicated mess by first impressions! To then understand the First Family in such an intuitive manner as to understand what they need before they even know what their needs might be is a telling truth to how special these men and women are and how thankful we should be to have them.

You become so entranced by this world Brower has opened up in front of you, you do not even realise how quickly the pages are being absorbed! She’s such a vivid story-teller you start to feel as if you’ve been there as the person describing what is going on is relating it to you. Time ebbs through this account as if it’s a shared history for all of us to become a part of as previously we had ‘missed a few things’ along the corridors of our lives. One of my favourite additions were the photographs of the staff members as it put faces to the memories and made it feel a bit more real to me. I wasn’t sure if the photographs would be included with the ARC, but happily they were!

This is definitely a book I will be re-reading more than once, a new tv serial (or motion picture) I will be watching, and more than that, a hardback book I shall be keeping my eyes out for as I very much want to see the other ‘additions’ to the finished copy! What a beautiful keepsake for those of us who grew up with fond appreciation for our Presidents and their families, thank you Ms Brower! Thank you, indeed!

Reflecting on why I love Presidential History:

I think depending on where you live, most would lament there is an allure to understanding their history and the history of how their country is run. I am as curious about Parliament and the Monarchy of England as I am about my own democratic system in America. There is something to be said for educating oneself about the goings on attached to government but also to the people who run the government. The Royals in England and the Presidents with their families are equally appreciated in my eyes, whilst they equally draw a knitting of curiosity around themselves!

Presidential history first intrigued me as a child, but as I have grown, I truly have embraced the legacy and the history of whom has lived in the White House. The best blessing of all is getting to know little pieces of the unknown bits as told through The Residence as it’s a homage to the human side of the White House but moreso than that, of finding a connection through time, place, and the moments in which the staff shares a portion of their lives with the First Family. It’s a unique dynamic to have and Brower is a trusted writer to appreciate because she has found a way to delve into this private world with attention to details yielding to a mindfulness for privacy. I applaud her efforts to keep a cardinal balance between what is needed to be revealed and how to reveal what can be said without sacrificing a person’s privacy.

This book has re-affirmed my appreciation for the Presidents, and how much I want to dig back into history and see it come to life before my own eyes. There are places in my country that are so rooted to the historical past, that as you walk in certain places, it is nearly as one of the staffers mentioned in the book: your gaining a moment where others have walked and in so doing, are now attached to that history. (I paraphrased the staffer, as this is the essence of what was being said, not the exactness of the words.) If we’re able to endeavour to understand our heritage on a personal level, how blessed are we to understand a bit more about our history through democracy? To get to know the men and women who silently serve and of whom never asked for gratitude or acknowledgement, but of whom deserve it the most? For me, this was a beautiful book that explores the humanity in all of us, and how inter-personal all our lives can become.

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This book review was courtesy of TLC Book Tours:

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Listen to an Excerpt of the book:

I personally could not follow along with Ms White (the narrator) but perhaps her style of telling the story will resonate with someone else instead. I’m not used to such an abruptness in speaking the words or a sharpening of the words might be a better way of expressing it. To me, she wasn’t a good ‘fit’.

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{SOURCES: Cover art of “The Residence”, book synopsis, author photograph of Kate Anderson Brower, author biography and the tour badge were all provided by TLC Book Tours and used with permission. Ruminations & Impressions Book Review Banner created by Jorie in Canva. Photo Credit: Unsplash Public Domain Photographer Sergey Zolkin. Comment Box Banner made by Jorie in Canva. Tweets embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. The book excerpt via SoundCloud for “The Residence” and the commentary by Kate Andersen Brower via Bloomberg Business had either URL share links or coding which made it possible to embed this media portal to this post, and I thank them for the opportunity to share more about this novel and the author who penned it. Jorie Loves A Story Cuppa Book Love Awards Badge created by Jorie in Canva. Coffee and Tea Clip Art Set purchased on Etsy; made by rachelwhitetoo.}

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Monday, 27 April, 2015 by jorielov in 21st Century, Animals in Fiction & Non-Fiction, Art, Audiobook, Audiobook Excerpt, Based on an Actual Event &/or Court Case, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, Bookish Films, Downton Abbey, Equality In Literature, Fathers and Daughters, Flashbacks & Recollective Memories, History, Humour & Satire in Fiction / Non Fiction, Interviews Related to Content of Novel, Jorie Loves A Story Cuppa Book Love Awards, Local Libraries | Research Libraries, Modern Day, Mother-Daughter Relationships, Non-Fiction, Political Narrative & Modern Topics, Presidential Life & History, Realistic Fiction, Soundcloud, TLC Book Tours

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2 responses to “Blog Book Tour | “The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House” by Kate Andersen Brower A #bookblogger who adored #TheWestWing on tv and The American President on the silver screen, digs happily inside ‘The Residence’!

    • Hallo, Hallo Heather,

      I felt this was one of the most cleverly written stories – how a house could become a tangible voice and character within the story itself and how illuinating Brower brought to life both the history of the White House itself and the persons who worked inside it. People who as she had mentioned in the book might not have had their voices heard until now had the best stories to share. This was one of my favourite blog tours when I hosted with TLC and was thankful for your lovely comment.

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