Politics in Fiction: Riveting Election Season Reads

Nobody knows better than those of us who live in Ohio that general election season is in full swing.  Why not try a novel with political themes to get you through until November 8?  Here are a couple of books that I found riveting.

Jennifer Close’s 2016 novel, The Hopefulsis told from the point of view of Beth, a young woman who is married to a would-be politician.  Beth and Matt (who is, hilariously, referred to as “Dogpants” among Beth’s friends) move from New York City to Washington D.C. so Matt can pursue a political career.  Beth loathes Washington D.C. until she is befriended by Ash, another political wife in town from Texas. Ash, her husband Jimmy, Matt, and Beth create a cloyingly-close foursome among the political climbers in D.C.  The drama heightens as Jimmy and Ash move back to Texas and Jimmy hires Matt to manage his first political campaign. Marriage, commitment, fame, and self-knowledge are all under scrutiny as the campaign takes its toll on all four friends. This is a bitter and clever book with well-developed characters.

Another political book from a couple of cycles back is Curtis Sittenfeld’s 2008 novel, American Wife. The protagonist, Alice Lindgren, is a school librarian who grew up in a small Wisconsin town. Her teen years are marred by the tragic outcome of a car accident while Alice is driving. After years devoted to her career in an elementary school, Alice meets Charlie Blackwell, the scion of a wealthy political family who frequently ponders his “destiny” in a way that Alice simply can’t comprehend.  They marry, and their marriage develops many of the novel’s themes:  identity, compromise, and being true to oneself.  Charlie is eventually elected governor of the state and President of the United States, while, at his side,  Alice ponders fame, privilege, and her own role as First Lady. I found this story completely immersive and thought-provoking.

Other novels featuring political spouses include:

Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagines a Life by Ann Beattie

Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini

First Lady by Susan Elizabeth Phillips


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