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The President's House: A First Daughter Shares the History and Secrets of the World's Most Famous Home Hardcover – November 4, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Bestselling novelist and first daughter Truman brings readers inside the White House, taking them on a notably reverential tour of its storied history, its well-known architecture and its intricate behind-the-scenes workings. There's a lighthearted jaunt through the White House kitchen, where one strong-willed housemaid kept serving President Truman brussels sprouts, though he hated them. The tour then goes to the White House garden, where Lincoln's gardener offered the first lady tips on hiding her excessive shopping expenses. Much of Truman's narrative is history lite aimed at the Martha Stewart set. Yet it contains just enough interesting anecdotes and stirring pageantry to be of interest to the general reader who's curious about how the White House functions. Truman dishes the gossip, especially about the White House as a social setting. For example, she describes Madame Chiang Kai-shek (wife of the Chinese general) as one of the most insufferable houseguests ever. Truman devotes separate chapters to the household staff, the political staff, the press corps, the security staff, White House weddings, first ladies, first children and even first pets: after the Clinton-era rivalry between Socks the cat and Buddy the dog, Socks ended up with a staffer while Buddy stayed with the Clintons. Despite the breeziness of this account, Truman does a fine job of evoking America's most famous residence as a place with "a unique combination of history, tragedy, comedy, melodrama and the ups and downs of ordinary living." 75 color and b&w photos.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Truman shares personal insights as she takes readers on a historical tour of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She vividly describes the building's evolution into the magnificent structure it is today. In addition, stories about staff, brides, children who grew up in the White House, and the care and feeding of guests make this much more than a dry examination of plaster and wood. Black-and-white and color photos are included. The book's readability makes this a painless history lesson, especially for reluctant readers.–Peggy Bercher, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; First Edition edition (November 4, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345444523
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345444523
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,061,220 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By W. C HALL VINE VOICE on December 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Former First Daughter Margaret Truman offers the reader an entertaining, anecdotal account of life at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Her focus is on the White House as a home, though its role as a seat of power is not neglected. As a result, you can expect to learn more here about the first wives, children, doormen, Secret Service agents, maids, gardeners, cooks and others who have lived and labored behind these famous walls..although the presidents themselves aren't entirely overlooked.

The exterior the White House presents to the world has changed little in two centuries...but the interior has been undergoing an almost constant process of destruction and renewal. We learn about the 1814 torching of the president's house by invading British troops; the addition of greenhouses, which gave way to the west wing at the beginning of the 20th century; almost constant sprees of redecoration and reconfiguring of the public and family rooms, all of which culminated in the complete reconstruction of the White House during the Truman years.

There are chapters about the rambunctious children, the unusual pets, the glamorous weddings, riotous inaugural balls and other historic events that have enlivened this historic mansion. You will get a sense of the behind-the-scenes preparation that goes into welcoming a visiting head of state or similar dignitary. There are two sections of illustrations, one in color, that further help the reader share in Truman's wonder and appreciation of this historic house.--William C. Hall
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on November 6, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Author and a former first daughter (unbelievably over fifty years ago) Margaret Truman provides the perfect combination to escort readers to an insider tour of the White House (past and present). The best-selling writer provides numerous anecdotes from history as she escorts her visitors through the kitchen, garden and the famous social functions, etc. The book also contains chapters on the household, political and security staffs, the press corps, and White House weddings. Of course other sections provide insight into the first families including pets.
Though history buffs will think it is too much fluff the former first daughter turned novelist provides a fun look at America's showcase home over the two plus centuries of residents. Readers will enjoy this book written in a light-hearted upbeat manner enhanced by color and black and white photos.
Harriet Klausner
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By C. M Mills on March 4, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Margaret Truman is, of course, the daughter of President Harry Truman and his wife Bess. She is the most prolific writing child of any American Chief Executiv. Margaret Truman has written several mysteries and histories about life in Washington which are written in a popular style easy to understand and enjoy.
As Ms. Truman opens the door to our White House she lets us discover the fascinating men and women who have lived at 1600
Pennyslvania Avenue. She discusses such various topics as:
1. White House Weddings.
2. Relations between the Presidents and the Media
3. The Children of Presidents who have lived in the White House
4. White House Presidential Pets
5. The kooks and crazies who have tried (and in some cases been successful) in assasinating our chief executive.
6. She describes the growth of the White House from its first occupancy by John and Abigal Adams in 1800. The history of the White House building, grounds, gardens and additions are discussed.
7. How the routine of a White House day changed with every administration-when they awoke to what they liked for dinner!
Ms. Truman has written in a charmingly simple style which is nevertheless based on her well done historical research. This is a book anyone regardless of age or party affiliation could enjoy.
I recommend it highly!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By JK on November 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book certainly reminds one of Mrs. Daniel's mysteries. I have read her various publications on her parents and I consider them to be better reads.
However, Mrs. Daniel does an excellent job of organizing her work, and the break-down of the chapters here is excellent. I didn't read the book in order, but picked the chapters in which I was most interested first!
I'm a history reader, though, and found very little in this book that was news. Save her personal recollections, I think I've seen this information elsewhere, and in greater detail. The book is very 'readable', though, and I managed to polish it off in two evenings, easily. This will likely broaden its appeal to its intended audience.
I can't say the book is a disappointment. I didn't expect a more academic volume. The expression 'history lite', used by Publisher's Weekly, is appropriate. For those who ordinarily don't read history, it will be pleasurable. For those of us who read history, a look elsewhere is recommended.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Voice of Reason on August 5, 2004
Format: Hardcover
While Margaret Truman isn't on the same level as Ken Burns, Shelby Foote or other historians her books are a fun read. Who better to tell you about the White House than someone whose parents spent seven years in residence (although due to renovations it was not technically seven years - they spent some time at the Blair House).

She crafts a nice balance between telling you little known stories about the former first families while sprinkling in her opinions; much like a chef would throw a dash of spice into a recipe. One of the most pleasant surprises is that she is bi-partisan in her narrative. If she is wry in her observations about some of the first families, it is based more on her observations of character rather than party loyalty. She speaks glowingly of some of the Republican inhabitants - most notably the Coolidges.

I definitely recommend this book for those who love historical trivia. Plus much of the reading material (White House pets for example)can be shared with kids for those times that you'd like bedtime reading to be a little more stimulating than "Captain Underpants" or "The Day my Butt went Psycho"
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