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3.67  ·  Rating details ·  551 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
She had the president's ear and the nation's heart.

She's the wife of the fourth president of the United States; a spirited charmer who adores parties, the latest French fashions, and the tender, brilliant man who is her husband. But while many love her, few suspect how complex Dolley Madison really is.

Only in the pages of her diary—as imagined by novelist Rita Mae Brown—ca
Paperback, 432 pages
Published April 1st 1995 by Bantam (first published 1994)
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Elliot Williams
Oct 08, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: read_2015
Dolley Madison is one of my favorite historical figures, mostly because of Catherine Allgor's marvelous biography of her, so I was very excited to stumble across this novel. It contains neither lesbians nor mystery-solving cats, alas, as Rita Mae Brown's other work let me hope (seriously, how cool would that be?), but it was a solid historical novel. For me, it got a tad bogged down in the congressional dramas of the era, but I liked how Brown gestures to themes and issues that loomed large in D ...more
Oct 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
When I read this book I got the feeling that The United States went to 'hell in a hand basket' as soon as George Washington died. Most seemed to stand in front of his portrait often asking themselves what George would do during these serious times.
Too bad Dolley Madison had not been the President, instead of her indecisive gentle husband. One couldn't help but think this woman before her time would have saved many lives if she had been given a chance to lead during those times. She had a peacefu
Oct 17, 2012 rated it liked it
I hoped to like this one more than I did. I guess I would say that it was a little heavy on the history--which may sound strange for a novel of historical fiction--but I felt like Brown was trying too hard to get too many historical tidbits in and she sort of lost sight of the narrative at times. This, of course, is just my opinion, but I will say that it wasn't until almost the end that I was really drawn into the story.

Although I didn't find this book to be a great read in terms of fiction, I
Jan 24, 2012 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the author's depiction of Dolley Madison. Through the fictional diary entries, I learned much about the intrigue of political parties even during the early days of our country. And the media wasn't so nice back then either - with New England newspapers hinting at an affair between her and the French minister. The book aroused such curiosity in me about the lives of men like Henry Clay and Daniel Webster that I know I will be reading more history. I recommend this novel to those who wan ...more
Angie Boyter
Apr 24, 2016 rated it liked it
Some time ago I rhapsodized about George Washington's Secret Six, calling it a history that reads like a novel. This is a novel that reads like history. As such, it is really interesting. I learned a lot about politics of 1814 and about the war and attitudes towards the government and towards other countries in that day (It REALLY seems strange to think of Great Britain as the enemy!). In addition, it is a lovely and beautifully expressed portrait of Dolley Madison.
As a novel, it is less success
Sep 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
I read this for October's book group meeting. Though it is fiction, it is researched and quite interesting. I am sure that I have read other things about Dolley in the distant past, but it was fun to meet her again. I am a fan of Rita Mae Brown's detective stories, set in the horsey area of Virginia. The devotion of Dolley and James is heartwarming, as is that of her black servants. It is too bad that her only son by her first husband turned out to be a wastrel. Friends were quite supportive. A ...more
May 29, 2014 rated it liked it
This is an interesting look at the life of Dolley Madison during the year 1814. It's an interesting look at a somewhat neglected section of American history. We get to see Brown's portrayal of Dolley, her husband James and a host of other people who were central to the events in and around Washington during that year.

I can't say this was fantastic but it was good. It felt a little stiff. I'm sure it's difficult to bring historical figures to life on the page and have them feel entirely real. Thi
Jean Tremaine
Jul 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Enjoyable read about a legendary historical figure and a pivotal time in American and Washington (DC) history that generally gets minimal coverage. I enjoyed all the little oddball bits and pieces of history woven into the plot -- like the origination of gerrymandering. I certainly came away knowing more about Dolley Madison than I expected to from reading a historical novel.
Jan 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
I like RMB's historical fiction! (Can't stand her kitty-mysteries!!) This one does not disappoint. Well-researched and about an interesting time in history when lots of big future 'players' were on the stage. Not deep but not total fluff either.
Dec 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
I love Rita Mae Brown's writing, and this work is no exception. Very much in the same vein as _High Hearts_, which would be an excellent choice to read next if you're looking for a progression both in character and in history.
May 28, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: book-club, abandoned
I gave up on reading this book. The writing was too dry for me.
Two chapters written in two different narative styles and I gave up. The main narative was pompous and boring as hell.
Dec 31, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography-memoir
3.5 stars really - I went back and forth between 3 and 4. Solidly written biography of Dolley Madison, showing her as a proto feminist. A number of passages are quite relevant to today's situation. I guess my expectations were just a bit too high, it being Rita Mae Brown and all....
Jul 17, 2016 rated it it was ok
Well...I gave up on this one. After not picking it back up for 2+ weeks after having tossed it aside, I quit.
I really like most of Rita Mae Brown's books (x for the cat detective ones: too precious, too contrived), but this one just put me off.
Perhaps if I were more knowledgeable about Dolly and James Madison's White House years and the breadth and depth of their influence, (plus the War of 1812, which I'm woefully ignorant about), I might have stuck with this book...but to be yea, this many yea
Nov 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club-read
This book was part of a book club which has been reading about the early years of our country. This novel gave me a new awareness of the War of 1812 and the burning of Washington DC.
At times it seemed to go slow but I'm glad I stuck it out. Dolley Madison was an incredible woman during a difficult time in our history. Add to that that woman were not permitted to be a part of the political discussions.
Jan 07, 2010 added it
Shelves: 2010
Rita Mae Brown amazes me because she writes in so many genres so deftly. This book was fascinating...who remembers their high school American history lessons? And how could a regular history class bring to life the historical figures in this novel set against the attack on Washington during the War of 1812?

Brown has marshalled her considerable research to create an interesting novel with a unique portrait of a first lady who has been much ignored.
Oct 06, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: women-rights, fiction
Found it very hard to get into the story in the first 1/3rd of the story. So many characters (had to keep referring back to the author's list of "who's who" in the front of the book). I find that very annoying and wish the authors would just introduce each character with more description so we can remember who they are. Did finish the book but I had to push myself past the dull moments.
Nov 27, 2010 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book. It's the first time I've ever read anything by Rita Mae Brown. I found the historical aspect interesting, not really knowing much about the War of 1812, or Dolley Madison. I thought the fictional perspectives of Dolley Madison were engaging and they came across as realistic. It was an enjoyable read.
Oct 01, 2011 rated it liked it
This came out in 2006. I just read it. You'd have to love history. She did a lot of research and captures some of the language my grandparents used. :) Nice to have a story about war from a woman's point of view. Artistic "replication" of Dolley's personal journals.
Mar 14, 2010 rated it liked it
Rita mae Brown has well researched this book and imagines the diary of Dolley Madison during the war of 1812, from january of 1814 through the birning of Washington and the White House by the British in August. I learned a lot oabout politics of the time and how fragile the union was.
Patsy Bishop
Apr 27, 2016 rated it liked it
I enjoyed reading about Dolley Madison. If the book is accurate, I found the origin of gerrymandering. Dolley was a strong-willed woman with a mind of her own.....and an understanding of politics that was not common for women during this time.
Mary Shafer
Jul 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: us-history, war
Really enjoyed this well-researched novel. I learned a LOT and as always, enjoyed the wonderful cast of characters. I wish Rita Mae could populate my entire world with her characters, because I love them all.
Jun 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who likes historical fiction
Shelves: 2014
Although the novel has a slow start--there are lots of people to get to know--the second half is hard to put down. Best part--the love story between Dolley and James Madison.
Julie H.
Jun 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
For fans of alternative history and the blending of history and fiction this is a fun read.
Mar 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this! Didn't really know anything about Dolley Madison and learned quite a bit. Also learned about the War of 1812. Written in a very enjoyable and very readable manner.
Laura Lee
Jun 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Dolley Madison during the War of 1812. Really enjoyed it.
Apr 29, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: historical
Never finished this book. I thought it boring.
Aug 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Excellent. What an amazing lady she was.
May 03, 2016 marked it as to-read
Shelves: packed-it-in
Couldn't get into this one at all. I guess I didn't share the authors admiration for Dolley.
Apr 09, 2016 added it
Early American history told by President Madison's wife.
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Rita Mae Brown is a prolific American writer, most known for her mysteries and other novels (Rubyfruit Jungle). She is also an Emmy-nominated screenwriter.

Brown was born illegitimate in Hanover, Pennsylvania. She was raised by her biological mother's female cousin and the cousin's husband in York, Pennsylvania and later in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Starting in the fall of 1962, Brown attended the Un
More about Rita Mae Brown...

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