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The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House

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3.75  ·  Rating details ·  13,708 Ratings  ·  1,795 Reviews
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.
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Paperback, 336 pages
Published March 8th 2016 by Harper Paperbacks (first published April 7th 2015)
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Lark I noticed that she spoke very positively of the Repulicans and less favorably of the Democrats. I also thought that there were some extremely private…moreI noticed that she spoke very positively of the Repulicans and less favorably of the Democrats. I also thought that there were some extremely private moments of the Carters, after losing the election, that she revealed in a disrespectful way. She also described the Bushes in glowing, almost gushing terms and the Clintons in, clearly, a more negative light. My take was that this was not at all an objectve look at the residents of the White but felt to me as if the author had an agenda. I had no idea she was a Fox News person but now it seems clear.(less)
Carol Smith Possible Discussion Questions for The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Andersen Brower

As you read The Residence, what…more
Possible Discussion Questions for The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Andersen Brower

As you read The Residence, what did you find most surprising about the staff serving the First Family?
Was there a particular story or event that sticks out in your mind?
Did you enjoy the author’s approach to telling the story of many different staff members across many different administrations?
What is your view of the dedication to service and privacy of the First Family exhibited and expected of the White House staff?
Would you be willing to serve as a White House staff member? Which administration would you most like to serve? Which would you least like to serve?
What did you learn about the White House itself that you never knew before?
What are your thoughts on the sacrifices made by the staff of the White House?
Were you aware of the history regarding slavery and the construction and staffing of the early White House? What are your reactions to that history?
Which chapter did you find most fascinating/interesting (“Controlled Chaos,” “Discretion,” “Devotion,” “Extraordinary Demands,” “Dark Days,” “Sacrifice,” “Race and the Residence,” “Backstairs Gossip and Mischief,” “Growing Up in the White House” or “Heartbreak and Hope”)?
Would you recommend “The Residence” to a friend? Why or why not?(less)
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Community Reviews

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Alex
May 08, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Eh. Quick, easy read. Brower did a great job at showing first families as real, genuine people. Also at making one dislike the Clintons...all of them. Having said that the author also manages to annoy beyond belief by constantly (and I mean every-other-paragraph-constantly) reminding the reader of the humble nobility and unassailable righteousness of the WH residence staff. For someone peddling a book whose very selling premise is the "inside scoop" she can't help be keep reminding the reader ho ...more
Blake
Apr 30, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was an interesting read, but the author hopped all over the place when telling stories so it was hard to follow. A couple of times, I felt I had already read the same "story." Having said that, I enjoyed the stories and learning which first couples were enjoyed by the White House staff and who they didn't particularly care for. This book has peaked my interesting in reading some of the biography books written by past maids, butlers, and ushers!
Paige
I recently read JB West's memoir of life as the chief usher in the White House for Presidents FDR - Nixon (briefly). I eagerly picked up The Residence hoping for a continuation of that.

In many ways, that is what I got. This is a sort of collective memoir of the domestic staff of the White House for Presidents JFK - Obama.

The thing is, though... This book was sort of a mess. I really enjoyed all the accounts of White House life. It was very unique to weave so many stories together. But the organi
...more
Hana
This was on my library's featured new books shelf so I picked it up on a whim. Rather to my surprise I polished it off in an evening and really enjoyed it. It's all about life in the White House as seen through the eyes of the incredibly dedicated, hard-working staff who make the beds, dust the thousands of museum pieces, pack the immaculately laundered shirts, lay out the suits, fix and serve the meals (from state dinners to chili at 2 AM) and cater to the whims of Presidents, First Ladies and ...more
Ellen
Apr 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are so many fascinating and wonderful stories in this book. I have been worrying my brain over which ones to tell.This book is about the people who lived and worked in the White House from the Kennedy's to the Obama's. It's not a gossipy tell all about the first families although there are some very riveting tales about certain Presidents and First Ladies. It's mostly about the members of the staff and their utter devotion to their work. A devotion that left many in the staff divorced. The ...more
Mahlon
Nov 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2016
At first this book appears to be nothing more than what you could get on an hour long PBS special, but after a slow start it does begin to reveal several interesting tidbits about both the first families and what working in the White House is really like. I gathered that there is usually a strict code of silence between the White House staff and the outside world, which often persists until long after they retire. They talk to almost no one, but many of them spoke to this author, that alone make ...more
Darlene
Jun 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am an avid consumer of politics and information about our 44 presidents. When I discovered this book written by Kate Andersen Brower, I knew it would be a fascinating read. Ms. Brower gathered material for this book by combing the archives and by interviewing scores of White House staff members. The anecdotes revealed through these interviews were funny and poignant and even sad; and I realized that the stories Ms. Brower obtained were no small feat as it became clear that the most cherished a ...more
Eileen
Jan 29, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Entertaining indeed, this was an intriguing peek at goings on in the White House over several recent administrations. As the author successfully interviewed numerous staff members, she was
able to provide a surprisingly human perspective on many towering familiar public figures. Although the workers behind the scenes are fiercely discrete (and must be by nature), bits were divulged, sometimes years later, which are very telling. Particularly fascinating to me was what was related with regard to
...more
C.
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. Very, very interesting and informative. Enjoyed the insight into how the Presidents and first families treated, and interacted with the White House staff, and how staff felt about them, and why they felt the way they did.

It is amazing what all is required from staff, and the hours they put in. They are not paid even close to what they deserve to be paid.

I was also surprised to learn that the First Family pays for all their groceries out of their own money, except fo
...more
Amy
Jan 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very appropriate to finish this book on the eve of a significant transition of new leadership. Shall I put the words "new leadership" in quotations? Perhaps. I cried at the beginning of this book for how much the first families and staff respected the White House, and cried at the end of this book for what might be lost these next four years. So much detail. So much respect for the House, the leadership, the office and the first families. A fascinating perspective, as told by the many employees ...more
Jamie Collins
2.5 stars, a mildly interesting book about the staff who manage the White House. There are almost 100 full-time employees, plus lots more part-time staff: cooks, florists, butlers, maids, plumbers, secretaries, etc.

The author jumps around between presidencies, offering stories about the relationship between the First Families and the residence staff, from the Kennedys through the Obamas. The current and former employees were reluctant to share negative impressions (not wanting to imperil their j
...more
Rebekah
May 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Fascinating!
Kim Miller-Davis
I rarely buy books when they are first released (mainly because, with my book addiction, I would be broke!), but as soon as I read about this one in the Washington Post, I knew I had to read it immediately. I am fascinated by stories about the inner workings of all aspects of the government, and this one seemed like it would provide a fresh perspective. Moreover, it promised to deliver inside stories about how the White House functions on a daily basis. As someone who grew up in the Northern Vir ...more
Patricia Romero
This was a Book Club Selection for April at my local library. I put off reading it until the last minute mainly because I thought it would be dry. It was not.

The first thing I'd say is that it is a very readable book. Very easy to read and I love that Ms. Brower didn't offer her own opinions or try to speak for the men and women she interviewed.

Even after having been to the White House and been on the tour, I had no idea what goes into running such a huge house, and I also had no idea exactly ho
...more
Books
Jan 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed-2016
I’m not an American, but I couldn’t wait to read this book. I mean, who wouldn’t be curious about what happens inside the White House. Honestly, I never gave a second thought to the going ons of this residence, but when the opportunity presented itself to get a glimpse into the private lives of the first families who have lived there, I just couldn’t resist.

I had no expectations of this book, because I didn’t know what to expect. I was intrigued from the start and every time I put it down, I cou
...more
Mayda
Oct 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, nonfiction
It is evident from the very beginning that much research went into the writing of this book. Filled with the personal stories of the everyday people who carried on with the most mundane tasks that kept the White House running smoothly, it gives us a behind-the-scenes look at a place most of us will never see. Chefs, maids, ushers, florists, and more share their feelings of what it was like to work for the most important families of the land. While protecting the privacy of the inhabitants, these ...more
Erika
What a fun, fun, FUN book!

I love everything relating to politics and presidents and DC and this was like listening to two people gossip, snippets here and there about different things they'd heard about different people and events in the White House. I know it wasn't put together that well, it jumped around a ton, flitted back and forth between presidents and time frames and it was hard to keep track. Still really fun though, and a five star for me just because it's what I love.
Jan
May 20, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
An enjoyable book about the White House residence staff. There are many fascinating anecdotes, but don't expect a Kitty Kelley like expose. Although some of the stories shared were not all favorable, we do get a fairly balanced view of the famous temporary occupants of the White House. Despite their quirks and gaffes, Presidents and their families were human. Wouldn't want to have worked for Nancy Reagan, though. Yeesh!
Karla Hanna
Apr 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would overall rate this book 4.5 stars. I got this as an audiobook and loved hearing the story. I do wish that it wasn't all over the place. But I imagine this was done in a way that the many men and women told their story in that particular chapters category.
Kelly Rommelfanger
I found this book really interesting. I especially liked when the personal stories would tie into huge historical events; Iran hostage crisis, Kennedy assassination, and 9/11.
Joseph
This book is basically a homage to the working people who staff the White House: the plumbers, butlers, electrians, housekeepers, the guy who keeps track of the dishes, and many more. They were and are almost all totally dedicated to the people they serve and anyone who is a guest in the White House. They do not become wealthy serving in the White House, many work part time and have other full time jobs. The value of the book is its focus on these people and what it takes to keep the White House ...more
Carol
Feb 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Most of these staff members dedicate their lives to working in this house to such an extent they oftentimes sacrifice their marriages and time with their children to serve the president and his family with such utter devotion. It’s just incredible. I’ve learned so many things I never would’ve imagined going on behind those walls.

Overall, this was a surprisingly good read. If you’re looking for dirt and spilled secrets about the first families who’ve lived in, and are currently living in the Whit
...more
David
Jun 25, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was fascinating for two reasons: White House gossip, obviously, and the view of race and class in domestic service that emerges from this group portrait of the people involved over several decades. I was glad that the author clearly set out to give voice to the staff, and to present such a respectful and admiring look at their work, which is deliberately intended to be invisible to the public. It was also fun to read what they had to say about their employers -- staff are paid by the F ...more
Olga Zbranek Biernátová
Jak si žijí první rodiny v Bílém domě? Neříkejte, že vás to nikdy nenapadlo. Kate Andersen Browerová poskládala z vyprávění sloužících v sídle amerických prezidentů obrázek obyčejných i neobyčejných chvil, které prožili jeho nájemníci. Nečekejte ale bulvár a klepy na každé straně. Vlastně je kniha až přespříliš pozitivní a trochu falešně vyšperkovaná. Ne, že bych autorku obviňovala z toho, že některé informace přikrášluje nebo zatajuje, spíš je ze všech těch ceremoniářů, služek, kuchařů a tajemn ...more
Colette
Apr 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Some pesky editing issues aside, this was fascinating...a little history, a little juicy gossip- it has it all. Loved it. I highly recommend this one. My first 5 star read of the year!
Alexw
Jun 22, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not much revealed here that I didn't all ready know. I did not know that Jimmy Carter's 3 boys smoked dope in the White House but I did know that Mrs Oboma was an angry lady and the Clintons were paranoid. An easy breezy read.
Craftyerin
Apr 02, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: solo
Eh, this was OK. I felt like there was enough content to cover about 2/3 of the length of the book. There were some good anecdotes and fun glimpses into life on the staff of the White House, but the execution left something to be desired, for me.
Marsha Hood
Mar 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You will love this book if you are interested in the history of the presidents and life in the White House from the Kennedys to the Obamas. I found it fascinating and full of surprises. The magnitude of what it takes to run the White House and take care of the first family is unbelievable.
Nmuller
Feb 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Okay, I really enjoyed this book. Everywhere I turn, I seem to read about Washington and politicians (all of them) and cringe. Watched "House of Cards" and that made me feel even worse about DC. (I understand it is fiction, but my guess is it is based on some truth. Ick.)

This book profiled some incredible people who take utmost pride in caring for the White House itself and those who are lucky enough or unlucky enough (depending on the day) to live in it. They don't take pride in being divisive
...more
Kim
Apr 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I LOVED the first half of the book which contained the really interesting tidbits about various first families. To be clear - none of this gossip is the kind of dirty laundry we filthy minded are so drawn to. The White House staff are very good at keeping the best stuff to themselves. Still, there are some fun little stories that help bestow an overall feeling of each family and what they were like.

While reading this book and for days after I found myself spouting off the new trivia I learned t
...more
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Screen & Page: The Residence & The Butler 1 2 Mar 01, 2018 07:36AM  
Screen & Page: the residence 1 2 Feb 16, 2018 10:50AM  
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Kate Andersen Brower is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller THE RESIDENCE and the New York Times bestseller FIRST WOMEN. She has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, Vanity Fair and Time. She 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, thei ...more
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“But most accounts agree that the residence workers’ devotion to President George H. W. Bush was more than customary—it was genuine, almost profound. The Bushes were generally easy to please, and the residence workers found themselves quickly at ease with them.” 1 likes
“He said when he got up in the middle of the night he ran into the bathroom door. But we’re pretty sure she clocked him with a book. —RESIDENCE WORKER ON LIFE IN THE CLINTON WHITE HOUSE DURING THE MONICA LEWINSKY SCANDAL T” 0 likes
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